U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan along with several Obama Administration and education officials launched a national conversation today about the importance of educating students for informed, engaged citizenship with the release of the Department's report, "Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy: A Road Map and Call to Action." The release coincides with the publication of a final report from the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, "A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy's Future," which was commissioned by the Department.
"Today's students are tomorrow's leaders, and giving them a strong foundation in civic values is critical to the vitality of America's democracy and economy in the 21st century," Secretary Duncan said. "This call to action is an opportunity to develop and improve civic learning as part of a well-rounded education so every student has a sense of citizenship."
Today's reports will be the focus of an event at the White House, "For Democracy's Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission," which will bring together Administration officials and education leaders for a series of discussions about advancing civic learning throughout the education pipeline. The conversations will be structured around the five priorities for action developed by the National Task Force and the American Commonwealth Partnership, which brings together schools, colleges and other partners to promote civic learning and civic identity throughout American education.
The Department's Road Map report notes that the need for this national dialogue is clear. As the Road Map details, while America's democratic ideals remain a model for the world, civic knowledge and democratic participation in the United States are far from exceptional. The 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Civics report found that not even 30 percent of fourth-, eighth- and 12th-grade students were proficient in civics, and a significant civic achievement gap persists among racial and ethnic groups. NAEP also documented declines in the overall civic knowledge of high school seniors between 2006 and 2010. And on a 2007 international ranking of 172 democracies, the United States ranked 139th in voter participation.
The Road Map highlights nine steps the Department will take to advance civic learning and democratic engagement, including adding civic indicators to national student surveys, promoting public service internships and careers, and leveraging federal programs and public-private partnerships. In addition, as part of today's event, more than 75 national and local organizations, higher education institutions, scholars and philanthropists announced statements of commitment to foster civic learning and democratic engagement in American education and outlined their plans to advance this mission in 2012. The full set of commitments can be found at: www.ed.gov/civic-learning.
Links to the reports, as well as "Guardian of Democracy: the Civic Mission of Schools," which was released by the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools in October 2011, can also be found at www.ed.gov/civic-learning. Today's event will be livestreamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live. Early portions of the event will be shown from 2-4 p.m. ET, and Secretary Duncan's remarks on connecting college, career and citizenship will air live at 5:30 p.m.