Civic Education: Let’s Get to Work.
I often wonder about the person I would have been. As a child, my life could have taken so many different turns. I could have gone to a different school, experienced different people, and learned from different educators. I am one of the lucky ones.
Let me back up a bit. My name is Dominic Madera. I am a proud Latino, a Texan, a debater, and an avid poetry reader. I go to Carnegie Vanguard High School in the Houston Independent School District — one of the most rigorous, stressful, and rewarding high schools and school districts in America.
Carnegie taught me how to handle the pressure of academic stress, while juggling family, friends, and extracurricular activities. More than anything, Carnegie solidified my love of history and policy. Teachers at Carnegie narrate humanity’s collective choices, and how those choices affect the trajectory of the future.
All Carnegie students have to take advanced history and social science courses during their high school career. When we have conversations outside of the classroom, there is a shared bank of information that we draw from — that we can connect to what is happening in the real world and in our own lives. These conversations allow us to expand our thinking past the classroom and into the world of policy; to make us sift through rhetoric and apply what we know to the issues in the world. I’m a bit biased, but to me this is more important than ever.
The norm in our school systems is to put civic education on the backburner. Policymakers and even some educators put a strong emphasis on STEM education or language academies to fix some of the problems in American education. Meanwhile, youth know less about history and the world of politics. In fact, according to a recent poll done by Pew Research, 41% of the country does not know that Joe Biden is our current vice president. Further research by Pew emphasizes that almost a full third of Americans cannot identify the three branches of government.
This is a very real and serious problem, and unfortunately not everyone has had the same privileges in terms of finding the kind of school that teaches students about the implications of policy and history. I want kids across the country to get the opportunity to learn in the way I did. I want the choices that my parents made for me to be the same kind of choices that the education system makes for American students — more broadly, so that every student can decipher the rhetoric that policymakers present them with.
School programs that address the need for civic education are necessary and important for the future of our school system — especially given the state of the US Presidential elections. The United States has one of the lower rates in voter participation. Because less people know about the political process, less people vote — and extended to this is the underlying sentiment that one’s vote does not matter; that nothing ever changes.
Some schools provide students with the necessary resources to understand this world and become active participants in it — even if they never want to run for office. That’s exactly what school has helped me to realize. I could have gone in a very different direction in my life. Because of my family and my school I did not. I am committed to helping shape the future of civic education. I want to help all children understand the world around them, and I think one of the only ways we can do this is through civic education. It is our duty to make the next generation knowledgeable and aware of different perspectives and effects of policy on their daily lives.
Our school system, and our country as a whole, are at a crossroads: we need to revitalize the civic education programs in our country. Policies and the choices of policymakers start with us giving students the long-term benefit of connecting with the effects of law. Let’s get to work.