CIRCLE in the news

(Woods Hole, MA) With our new report on civic education published recently–and the election coming up–we have been in the news a lot lately. Here’s a sampling of recent coverage:

Nora Fleming, Out of School Engagement in Civic Education and the 2012 Election, Education Week, 10/10/2012 (interview format)

Education Week: And in the future? Is there more interest now in early engagement around elections, politics, and civic life than in the past?

Peter Levine: It’s a mixed picture. I think more organizations and individuals are concerned about these issues and doing their best to help. I think some of the new strategies are very innovative and promising, such as the use of computer simulations to teach politics. On the other hand, as our new study shows, states have cut back a lot on civics requirements, and social studies tests have shifted to exclusively multiple-choice. Neither No Child Left Behind nor Race to the Top did anything positive for civics. So policies have been unhelpful.

Nora Fleming,  Civic Education Found Lacking in Most States, Education Week, 10/10/2012

“The standards in most states include some high aspirations, but typically have nothing to do with assessments. The standards are miscellaneous, the assessments are lacking, and when they are high stakes, they are trivial,” Levine said. “I think in a big, deep way, civics and preparation for citizenship has been left out by policymakers, who think in terms of preparation for college and for a difficult labor market but don’t think of civics as part of this.”

Amelia Woodside, Parenting young voters: There’s still time in this election season, Christian Science Monitor, 10/12/2012

“Young people age 18-29 are a large bloc of 46 million eligible voters, larger than the senior population, and they tilted sharply in favor of Obama in 2008,” writes Peter Levine, director of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) & Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Tufts University in an e-mail interview. “If their turnout is much lower, or if Mitt Romney controls more of their votes than John McCain did in 2008, that could have a substantial effect on the outcome. In 2008, if young voters had not supported Obama, he would have lost Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.”

Steven Yacino, Colleges Take a Leap Into Voter Registration, The New York Times 10/13/2012

Roughly 11 million eligible voters ages 18 to 24 are in college, about a quarter of all eligible young voters, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

Zoë Carpenter, The Missing Millenials, The Nation, 10/17/2012

The public discussion about millennial turnout has focused on educated voters like Amber rather than her sisters. “The media talks about college students as if they’re all young people, and all young people are college students,” CIRCLE’s Peter Levine says. “And that contributes to the fact that noncollege youth are overlooked.” Voter registration and turnout are strongly correlated with education, and about 42 percent of the current youth population has never been to college. However, studies show that when undereducated youth are registered to vote, they do so at rates similar to nearly every other group. It’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg problem: campaigns don’t target poor and uneducated voters because they’re considered “low potency,” while those populations are less likely to vote because they aren’t engaged by the campaigns. The destruction of institutional networks in poor neighborhoods has further increased their distance from the electoral process. Older generations left high school, joined unions and worked in organized workplaces such as factories. They read newspapers and went to church. That is no longer the case, according to Levine: “They’re on their own in a way that is unprecedented.”

Fawn Johnson, Growing Young Voters (Without Boring Them), National Journal (online)  10/22/2012

If the casual mention of a high school social studies class makes your eyes glaze over, you aren’t alone. The stereotype of the throw-away, easy A class taught by the football coach is there for a reason.

But you also aren’t thinking about civics the way that education scholar Peter Levine thinks you should. “In 1948, 41 percent of American kids took a class called Problems of Democracy. It was reading the newspaper and discussing the issues and writing papers about it, which is pretty much what I would want to happen. …It’s basically gone now,” said Levine, who runs the civic engagement organization CIRCLE.

Levine worries a lot about how kids learn to become citizens. He says schools aren’t teaching them about civics in any consistent or meaningful way. CIRCLE’s research on government curriculum finds that all states require some form of social studies, but most states don’t test on it and those that do use the cheapest multiple-choice tests.