In the essays that follow, King and Dubé advance various ideas for improving civics education in America and attest to the importance of literacy as well. Meeting these goals simultaneously might be one of the most important education conversations of our time.

Civil Discourse Prompts
What is the goal of civics education?
How might civics education be woven into core curriculum?
Should schools mandate civics instruction?
Louise Dubé Executive Director

Louise Dubé joined iCivics as executive director in July 2014. She discovered the power of education in the early 1990s as a co-founder of CASES, a New York alternative-to-incarceration program for youthful offenders. Most recently, Louise was the managing director of digital learning at WGBH. Previously, she served as president of Pangea Tools, vice president of marketing at Time To Know, president of Soliloquy Learning and vice president and general manager at Scientific Learning.

girl holding book looking toward the statue of liberty
John B. King Jr. President and CEO
The Education Trust

John B. King Jr. is the president and CEO of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close educational opportunity and achievement gaps. King served as secretary of education in the Obama administration. Prior to that role, King was deputy secretary. He joined the department following his post as New York state education commissioner. King began his career as a high school social studies teacher and middle school principal.

We also can do more to embed service learning in students’ experience of school. But service must go beyond one-off trips to the local soup kitchen. Instead, students should have opportunities to use their classroom learning to identify the structural obstacles and injustices that their communities face and to develop solutions. I’ve often said some form of national service should be required for all young people in America.

Second, through partnerships with schools, nonprofits, civic and civil rights groups, local governments and other organizations, we should enable students to develop an inclination toward informed activism.

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teaches them that education is not just to prepare for exams but to make change in the real world.

Great point. School doesn't have to just be about prepping for college or a career, nor should it. A proper civic education can help produce better informed and thoughtful citizens.

A healthy democratic society needs strong defenders — people who not only understand how our systems function but who can navigate those systems and disrupt them when necessary so that they truly promote America’s ideals of equity and opportunity.”

I completely agree. The government works for those who know how to navigate and use it to get what they need. Too many people aren't taught about how our governmental systems work and what it takes to get what you need from government.

only four in 10 adults can pass a citizenship test, it’s a concerning reality that 32 million adults in America are unable to read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy.

This is a scary statistic, knowing that so many US citizens lack the knowledge to pass a citizenship test themselves. This makes me question how well citizens can participate well in society when they lack the knowledge of civics.

An effective civic education doesn’t just teach about institutions. It teaches students how to understand the world around them, how to read and digest the news and how to develop informed opinions and back them up with facts. It teaches them how to express their views on issues and gives them a voice. And it teaches them that education is not just to prepare for exams but to make change in the real world.

This beautifully showcases what a robust civic education is truly about. Its not only about memorizing facts or the organization of institutions, but is about how to understand the foundations of our nation, how to make informed opinions, respectfully debate and make change.

King, a former civics teacher, suggests, in part, that teachers are feeling more pressure to devote instructional time to reading and math. Dubé is blunter, pointing to “a half-century long education reform effort during which the goal of schools was narrowed to career and college readiness, and the time and resources devoted to goals other than basic literacy were cut.” King says, “it’s a mistake to crowd out subjects like social studies, the arts and sciences.” Dubé says civics has been “sidelined” by a “reductionist and transactional” school system.

Failing to teach children in subjects such as civics, social studies, the arts and sciences is a failure of the education system. Each of these subjects are important for developing minds.

As I and others have noted, the Parkland students were prepared to be leaders in a social movement because of their learning at Stoneman Douglas, which included quality civic education.

A good example of this same thinking follows the activism that took place this summer. Most of the peaceful protests in Georgia were initiated by college students. The first protest that took place in downtown Atlanta was organized by a few college kids, and the odds of them knowing about civics are higher than non- college students.

Civic education will produce strong team members who ensure that all views and experiences will be heard and who solve problems understanding the complexity of our pluralistic syste

Again, I find myself skeptical that this is a guaranteed outcome, or even one we can believe to be likely. As university professors on both sides of the political spectrum allow their personal beliefs to filter into classroom discussions, I expect this to diminish the potential for objective discussions in which all opinions will be honored and respected. Sadly, I am not optimistic that the central claim of this argument is grounded in reality.

This is incredibly important at a time when some 25 percent of young people believe that democracy is a bad system of government.

This is a very concerning stat, ensuring that our student understand the mores that stem from democracy such as equality and freedom is vital, not only to spread the idea of democracy but most importantly to protect the most successful attempt at it here in America.

But, as education leaders, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know the troubling reality is that we, as a nation, are not consistently preparing students for engaged citizenship, let alone activis

I don't think I really agree with this statement. I think schools have indeed become places of political activism, a kind that is rooted in intolerance and anti-liberal principles.

Most Americans have little idea why our public school system was set up in the first place — to create a universal network, free to all citizens, through which they could acquire the knowledge they need to participate in elections, sit on juries and attend public meetings.

I don't feel like our public school system prepares students to do so. Our schools need to teach students more real-life skills.

In diverse classrooms, students are exposed to various cultures and perspectives. They work with peers who have different experiences of the world. They can see people of color in positions of leadership and as role models. And they have opportunities to confront biases — all of which will help them to more effectively engage in our democracy.

This is well said. Being exposed to different perspective and experiences among peers and educators is a great way to be prepared for embarking in the real world, especially when this exposure happens early on during developmental years. This also leads to more equitable access to opportunity for students.

But service must go beyond one-off trips to the local soup kitchen. Instead, students should have opportunities to use their classroom learning to identify the structural obstacles and injustices that their communities face and to develop solutions.

I think this is a good idea, i know that some schools reqquire ongoing volunteer hours as a requirement for graduation. But I think that what is being suggested is that we take it one step further. How do we encourage students to want to be invested in being interested and invested in growing their civic knowlege if theyre not interested. I think we need to be creative in how we engage them so that there could be more success.