Commonsense Solutions to Our Civics Crisis

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: In order to reverse the precipitous decline in civic knowledge among Americans, David Davenport proposes that annual funding for civics education be increased to $500 million; that testing on civics be mandated at least in grades 4, 8, and 12; that all students take a year-long high school civics course; and that civic knowledge be emphasized over civic action.

It is well known, Visiting Scholar David Davenport argues, that American civic education is in serious decline. One survey after another documents Americans’ general lack of civic knowledge, and ideologically slanted textbooks combined with poor teacher training in civics have led to declining civic literacy among the American population. It’s a trend that contributes to greater polarization and discord nationwide.

A main cause of our current predicament is that funding for civic education has decreased from $150 million in 2010 to just $5 million today, while funding for STEM education has grown markedly. The U.S. government spends approximately $54 per student on STEM education, compared with a minuscule $0.05 per student for civics education, leaving current and future generations far less equipped to carry out the duties required of citizens in a constitutional republic.

Davenport proposes taking the following steps to reverse the decline in civics: increasing annual funding for civics education to $500 million; testing students on civics at least in grades 4, 8, and 12; requiring students to take a year-long high school civics course; and restructuring curriculum to ensure that civic knowledge is emphasized over civic action.

Read the full report here.