Saturday, February 07, 2015

It is Time for Civic Education for All


by Duane Campbell
The Sacramento Bee editorial board was correct in their Friday Feb.6, 2015,  piece, “Civic Education is Essential to Democracy. congratulate them on their position. http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article9373664.html
However, they missed the boat on how to get to improved civic education.
While it is accurate that we have a general problem of civic engagement of the young,  it is also true that we have a very specific problem with the rate of Latino and Asian voter participation and  civic engagement.  Together they comprise over 60% of the students in our schools.  And, the textbooks have yet to acknowledge their presence.
 Rates of voting and voter registration provide a window into civic engagement.  The proportion of state voter  registration that is Latino and Asian has remained far below the proportions of these groups in the state’s overall population. In 2010, Latinos in the state made up 37.6% of the general population while they were on 21.2 % of the registered voters. The Asian population was 13.1 % of the state but  only 8.1 % of the registered voters.

The Bee recommendations , like the earlier report, Revitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California, http://www.powerofdemocracy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CLTF-Final-Report.pdf
miss the single most direct and important  issue – include the children.  See http://choosingdemocracy.blogspot.com/2014/08/another-opportunity-missed-civic.html

 Children and young adults need to see themselves in the curriculum.  Students, particularly students of color, have low levels of attachment to California and U.S.  civics messages in significant part because the government institution they encounter the most- the schools- ignore the students own history, cultures and experiences.

A fundamental way to engage students in civic culture is to engage them in their own schools and communities.  That is where the students most encounter civic opportunities.
The 1987 California History Social Science  Framework still in use today to guide the selection of  California textbooks   expanded African American, Native American, and women’s history coverage but remains totally inadequate in the coverage of Latinos and Asians. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and a photo of Cesar Chavez.
When the 51%  % of students who are Latino , and the 9  % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of history,  for many their sense of self is marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school and their success at school.  It contributes to an up to  50% drop out rate for Latinos and some Asian students.  A more accurate, more complete  history  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose, even a sense that  they should stay in school and learn more. History and social science  classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the civics  skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   

Add their stories to the history textbooks, add their literature to the literature textbooks. They are not migrants from some distant place. They are California's children. Include them.  
The hard work of teachers and advocates, Los Angeles and San Francisco Unified  School boards have added ethnic studies to their curriculum.  This is an important step toward the inclusion of these students in civic education.  http://choosingdemocracy.blogspot.com/2014/12/la-unified-san-francisco-unified-to.html
To include more, the  1987 History Social Science Framework for California’s Schools needs revision. See here. See https://sites.google.com/site/chicanodigital/home/why-california-students-do-not-know-chicano-history

And, yes, a revised civics course and appropriate support for teacher in-service preparation  is needed. The place to do that is in the History/ Social Science framework scheduled to be revised in 2015/2016.   It will require focused attention of many, including scholars, political leaders and editorial boards to overcome the inertia of the past frameworks. 
A more accurate, more complete  history  provided in Ethnic studies courses  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose, even a sense that  they should stay in school and learn more.  And, ethnic studies would provide Anglo  students with an informed, accurate history of the political and cultural development of the state.  Ethnic studies classes should help young people acquire and learn to use the civics  skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   

The Department of Education and the Board of Education can start by revising the California History/ Social Science Framework to include the history of the majority of students in the schools  and by  joining LA Unified in requiring Ethnic Studies Classes in high school.

The Framework determines what goes into the California  textbooks.  Having sought for decades to change this framework, I recognize how difficult it will be.  The next revision is up for consideration in 2015/2016.   If the CDE stacks the committee membership for writing a new framework, as they did last time, we can expect little change.  See https://sites.google.com/site/chicanodigital/home/why-california-students-do-not-know-chicano-history

There is a network of scholars and professionals interested in writing a more complete history of our state.  This has been said before and we will keep reminding these folks.
Duane Campbell,  Democracy and Education Institute.
Sacramento

Readers:  Please like this post on Facebook and forward it to your lists.
We encourage discussion of these issues. Please use the comments section of this blog.



Post a Comment
 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.