Massachusetts Legislature Considering Requiring Civics in Schools

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2018/07/25/massachusetts-legislature-considering-requiring-civics-in-schools/

By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Civics education would become more prominent in public schools across Massachusetts, under a bill filed Tuesday night by negotiators.

All six House and Senate conference committee members signed off on the bill (S 2631), which could surface for votes during sessions scheduled for Wednesday.

The bill states that in all public schools, the “history of the United States of America and social science, including civics, shall be taught as required subjects to promote civic service and a greater knowledge thereof and to prepare students, morally and intellectually, for the duties of citizenship.”

Also, each public school serving students in the eighth grade and each public high school must provide at least one student-led civics project for each student, according to the bill, which was assembled by chief conferees state Representative Alice Peisch of Wellesley and state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain, both Democrats.

The civics projects may be taken on by individual students or students working in small groups or classwide, and should promote a student’s ability to reason and make logical arguments and support claims using valid evidence and demonstrate an understanding of the connections between federal, state and local policies, including issues that may impact the student’s community, according to the bill.

The conference committee’s bill does not include language specifically making a civics project a high school graduation requirement, as the Senate did in its bill.

A civics challenge available to all eighth grade students and intended to showcase projects is also called for under the bill, with the 2022-2023 academic year targeted to implement the program.

Within the required civics instruction, the following topics must be covered:  the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights; Declaration of Independence; the Massachusetts Constitution; local history and government; the function and composition of the branches of local, state and federal government; roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy; the development of skills to access, analyze, and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics; community diversity and trends in voter registration and civic participation relative to disenfranchised voter populations; opportunities to identify and debate issues relative to power, economic status, and the common good in democracy; and a program relating to the flag of the United States, including proper etiquette and the correct use and display of the flag.

To further civics education, the bill calls for the creation of a Civics Project Trust Fund that would be administered by the state education commissioner, using revenues appropriated by the Legislature as well as funds from public and private sources such as gifts, grants, and donations.

The legislation authorizes a high school voter challenge program in a bid to draw interest in state and municipal elections among students.

The bill also calls for the state to provide information to cities and towns to promote youth membership on municipal boards, committees and commissions.

The other conference committee members were state Senators Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Dean Tran (R-Fitchburg) and state Representatives Paul Tucker (D-Salem) and William Crocker (R-Centerville).

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