The New Jersey Coalition to Support the Civic Mission of the Schools was organized to create public awareness and support for the civic mission of the schools through public meetings and discussions and to enhance the teaching of civics, history, economics, humanities and other social sciences. It includes educators, public policy makers and others interested in ensuring that our future generations have the necessary knowledge and interest to maintain our democratic institutions..
The Coalition was created to respond to the NAEP civic results which have consistently shown than the majority of students lack even a basic understanding of the structure and goals of the American system of Constitutional democracy. See http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/civics/
Unlike 30 other states, New Jersey does not require a single civics course at any time in the K-12 education of our young people. An Inventory of Civic Education in New Jersey, conducted in the fall of 2004, revealed that only 39 percent of New Jersey school districts require all of their students to take a civics course in any grade. (For the full report, click here). And this number has been reduced over the past four years due to high-stakes No Child Left Behind testing. Except for students taking an American government elective (10 to 20 percent of the student body of any given high school), students in most New Jersey school districts are exposed to one week to one month of civic content knowledge as part of U.S. history, with little emphasis on the importance of citizen action. We are graduating a significant number of young people who have no sense of what it means to be a citizen in a democratic society and no sense of civic responsibility.
The 2003 Civic Mission of the School report outlined six promising approaches to civic education which have been reiterated more recently in the 2011 Guardians of Democracy: Civic Mission of Schools report http://www.civicmissionofschools.org/the-campaign/guardian-of-democracy-report
- Provide instruction in U.S. government, history, law and democracy.
- Emphasize knowledge, skills and attitudes.
- Engage students in classroom discussions about current local, national and international issues that young people view as important in their lives.
- Design and implement service learning programs that enable students to connect community service and classroom learning.
- Encourage student participation in student government.
- Encourage student participation in simulations of democratic processes and procedures.