A DISTURBING DIAGNOSIS
In "War on Public Schools" the author, Christakis, describes the limited amount of class time used for social studies in traditional public schools (assigned by district). Because most testing after "No Child Left Behind" does not include civics, the article finds teachers prioritize classroom time for tested subjects.
“Less than 40% of fourth-grade teachers say they regularly emphasize topics related to civics education... Already, some experts have noted a conspicuous link between the decline of civics education and young adults’ dismal voting rates. Civics knowledge is in an alarming state: Three-quarters of Americans can’t identify the three branches of government.”
Considering the tumultuous political climate, the fact that ¾ of Americans can’t identify the branches of government feels downright frightening. We need citizens that understand and are passionate about making a difference in their communities. The Atlantic clearly articulates public schools’ neglect of civic values, but how should the US educate future generations who are equipped to make a difference in society and who are more tolerant and more interested in democracy?
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
Christakis calls for Americans to fix public schools, and we should do that. But why stop here? There are other innovative education solutions worth exploring. Research shows private and charter schools produce students with significantly stronger democratic values. It would be a mistake to assume that because a school is not government-run or has a religious affiliation that it is not equipped to teach civic duty and tolerance. Consider a systematic study of empirical data comparing public, private, and charter school by Dr. Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas. He concludes:
“The statistical record thus far suggests that private schooling and school choice rarely harms and often enhances the realization of the civic values that are central to a well-functioning democracy... Choice programs targeted to [minorities] seem to hold the greatest promise of enhancing the civic values of the next generation of American citizens.”