A coalition has formed to advocate implementing the recommendations of the Civic Mission of Schools report across the United States. The coalition includes 42 individuals and groups, including such major stakeholders as both national teachers unions, the National Council for the Social Studies, the American Bar Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Education Commission of the States, the Center for Civic Education, and many more. The campaign has raised $2 million, most of which will be distributed to teams that will advocate civic education in their own states. The full plan calls for raising roughly another $1.6 million. The Campaign has not been formally launched with press releases and a website, but it is certainly no secret, having been announced at several large conferences. Last week was its second Steering Committee meeting, which I attended. (In fact, I’m the chair, although I don’t take that title overly seriously). Conversation was focused, thoughtful, and civil all day.
One of many issues that arose was how to make civic education seem more urgent to the many people who like the sound of it, but aren’t moved to promote it. I don’t know the answer, but I think that many people are deeply dissatisfied with the political culture (writ large). They don’t like the conversation they see on political talk shows, the campaign ads, the leaders of either party, or even the heads of our major non-profits. Certainly, some of these dissatisfied people have unrealistic expectations or have jumped to overly hostile conclusions. But some very thoughtful citizens rightly dislike the general tenor of political debate and the quality of our leaders. To them, we need to say, “What kind of leaders can we expect in 10 or 40 years if we don’t do a better job of civic education? Kids are being ‘educated’ by such spectacles as the White House press conference last week–and worse. If this is the only kind of education they get, then our public institutions and communities will face big trouble in the decades to come.”