12.2.12

HIGH SCHOOLS USED TO TEACH CIVICS.

It's not required at university any more, and its absence matters.
People who ignore the government tend to get the government they deserve, said Gerald Gabris, professor of public administration.

Little education in government makes young people more apathetic, Gabris said: They tend to see government as dysfunctional and as a consequence turn their attention away from it.
There's a testable hypothesis hiding somewhere ... did governmental dysfunction (or overweening government) come first, or did the abandonment of civics come first. The Cold Spring Shops position is that civics is the duty of junior high and high school, such that the day laborer and the day trader alike have a working understanding of the rights and obligations of citizens.  Once, universities provided reinforcement of a sort.
Classes teaching civil engagement are not mandatory for NIU students and have not been since the 1980s, Gabris said. Sometime during the 1980s, universities moved away from making mandatory civic responsibility classes, Gabris said.

"I came here in 1986 and in that year was about the time when a lot of these requirements were being changed," Gabris said.

A student can now go through college without taking a course on American government, he said.

"I think that is a mistake," Gabris said. "When you look at our country, it is founded on democratic principles."

The promotion of civic responsibility is not held to any single political science course, said Andrea Radasanu, director of undergraduate studies for the political science department. A course on international relations has the potential to teach students to become more civically engaged, Radasanu said.

"Part of our mission is to promote responsible citizenship," she said.

The political science department has two types of introductory courses teaching American government. Almost 500 students are enrolled in them currently, Radasanu said.
The constitution test was gone by 1988 or 1989. Students can fulfill a social science distribution requirement with the American Government course, although we can wonder how much get-through-the-generals goes on to the exclusion of civic engagement ... that's a problem big enough for the entire faculty.  It's also something that bothers students elsewhere.
But the Editorial Board believes that Stanford has a responsibility to provide more than just career training to students who come through the university. At least as long as it purports to provide a liberal education to Stanford students, the university must work to fill in the cracks and ensure that every student leaves Stanford with the basics of humanities and citizenship.
That editorial suggests some higher-concept material that ought to be in each student's core knowledge, but, again, it suggests that the high schools have neglected some fundamentals.

1 comment:

Dr. Tufte said...

Two things they certainly ought to learn would be:

1) That, for the most part, the Constitution and its amendments delineate how their government can treat them, not other people, and

2) That rights are not things that you want, but obligations that society agrees to impose on others on your behalf.