Students & Parents | General Education

Civics education requirements shouldn’t be history

WASHINGTON POST   |  April 28, 2017 by Michael B. Poliakoff

In his April 22 op-ed, “We’re not teaching the A-B-C’s of civics. That’s a problem,” Colbert I. King correctly pointed to civic illiteracy as a great and growing danger to American democracy. Rather than wringing their hands, concerned members of the public should begin to hold our system of higher education accountable for its mounting contributions to the history deficit.

Surveys by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which advocates history and civics requirements, reveal that only 18 percent of four-year liberal arts institutions require undergraduates to take a single course in American history or government. In December, George Washington University’s history department announced that requirements even for history majors would no longer include a course on U.S. history. With U.S. history and government requirements disappearing from curriculums, students’ lack of respect for First Amendment freedoms is predictable. There are remedies: Several states — Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Nevada — mandate the study of the Constitution as a condition for graduation from public universities. Policymakers and higher- education trustees must recognize their duty to ensure that their graduates are ready for engaged, informed citizenship in a free society.


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