We all know about reading, writing and arithmetic, but have you ever thought about the importance of our children learning civics? Arizona is leading a push to make sure civics is a part of our curricula. In 2015, Governor Ducey and legislators made sure students had to pass a civics test to graduate from high school. That begins with this year’s senior class. Arizona was the first state in the nation to make this requirement.
But years before that, in 2009, an Arizona legend began another effort to bring civics into the classroom. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to restore civic education in our nation’s schools. As Justice O’Connor said, “The practice of democracy is not passed down through the gene pool. It must be taught and learned anew by each generation of citizens.”
I had the honor of standing alongside Justice O’Connor a couple weeks ago in the Arizona Senate, as I read SCR 1026, a resolution I authored to express our continuing commitment to the promotion of civics education in Arizona schools. Coincidentally, in addition to our interest in civics education, Justice O’Connor and I are the only female Senate Majority Leaders in state history.
So how concerned should we be about a lack of civics education? The National Assessment of Educational Progress found only 23 percent of 8th Graders performed at proficient level in civics. A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found only 36 percent of adults could name all three branches of government. More than one in three individuals couldn’t even name one branch. More than half of Americans do not know which party controls the U.S. House and Senate.
The success of our Republic depends on the active participation of its citizens. As it says in the Resolution, the lack of an educational foundation regarding the fundamentals of the democracy established by this country’s founders and defended by generations of American soldiers increases the potential for incivility and threatens the sustainability of our American democracy.
Civics education helps teach children the principles and history of constitutional democracy. I encourage parents to join me in promoting enhanced civics education in our schools. Civics education is vital to our nation’s future. Let’s make this happen together.
Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, is the Senate Majority Leader.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.