Americans more politically engaged despite being less civics educated, study finds

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) – A University of Pennsylvania survey conducted last year found that world event such as the pandemic and racial unrest last summer has led to record levels of citizen engagement with national politics. This can be seen in the record number of votes cast in the last presidential election.

But that doesn’t necessarily reflect Americans understanding of basic civics.

In fact, that same survey found that just 51 percent of Americans could name all three branches of government.

UTC’s Political Science Department Head, Michelle Deardorff, says that this can be traced to students no longer being taught basic civics in school.

“If we’re going to have a more engaged citizenry, then we need a more educated citizenry,” says Deardorff.

She explains that most civics requirements in schools were changed due to education reform laws such as No Child Left Behind.

“It used to be that most states required a year of American government before students could graduate. That was done away with in the 90s with No Child Left Behind.”

She says that these laws were enacted to address what was seen as failing subjects for students, and as a result civics and government classes were deemed less important.

“There was deep concern that there were inequities in the education system and that some students were far behind in what was seen as the most important things, particularly math, and reading and writing,” explains Deardorff.

She says that with a populace that is so engaged, civics education is more important than ever.

“We have people who are engaged and interested, now how do we educate them as to how this works and what it means? So they can draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions as citizens?”

Categories: Chattanooga, Education, Featured, Government & Politics

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