The Biggest Civics Problem in Seattle’s Public Schools is:
- Shockingly low expectations/requirements—Currently, in the social studies, the only civics instruction that is required in the Seattle School District includes:
- one semester of senior American government and
- only one week of civics is required in 5th, 7th, and 12th grades
- Most kids know little about how to affect change in their neighborhood and even less about their democracy: 75% of American teens failed the last national civics test and only 2% of 4th graders performed at the Advanced level.
- Worse, many of our Seattle youth display a profound sense of alienation and apathy about their government and civic life.
- Far too many leave high school uninterested and unprepared to vote. Less than 20% of 18-29 year olds vote in mid-term elections, on average.
SPS Media Literacy Requirements are Disjointed and Minimalistic
- Students consume massive amounts of media yet SPS gives them few skills to identify political bias, etc.
- Civics for All proposes a modest set of tools for teachers to infuse media literacy lessons related to electoral politics into their curricula
SPS Shrinks Civics Expectations further: Service-based “Senior Project” Eliminated
- The “Senior Project,” cancelled by SPS in May of 2014, generally emphasized public service and was often the culmination of students’ work on their community service hours. It is a lost civic opportunity for ALL STUDENTS to do in-depth, project-based, community service work.
- For many students, the senior project was a very meaningful experience and for some it was transformative. But because the program was never prioritized, standards were not upheld, funding was marginal at best, and inconsistencies marginalized the senior project’s overall efficacy.
- It became a burden to bear rather than an opportunity to exploit, as they do in cities like Boston (BPS) by allying with local universities to broadly support the seniors with placements, the experience, and the evaluation/reflection phases. SU and the UW’s already significant role in our schools could be easily expanded like Northeastern U’s is in Boston.
- Civics education in Seattle suffered a real blow with the the loss of this requirement.
- A full semester senior project based class is a replacement possibility though, as is done in Boston Public Schools.
The National, Historic Context:
For almost half a century now, civics has been back-burnered in our nation’s K-12 schools. Even prior to NCLB’s federal and state mandates focusing on math and reading, civics has often been relegated to a mere semester course on government – “compared to as many as three courses in democracy, civics, and government that were common until the 1960s” (Carnegie/CIRCLE, 2003, p. 5).