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Letter to the Editor: Change needed in how civics is taught in classrooms

I am s social studies teacher and the chairman of the Litchfield, Minnesota school board.  I’ve watched with great interest the progress of a bill in the Minnesota legislature to increase accountability in civics.

This bill, HF 562, would require that civics be taught for credit to juniors or seniors in high school.  Don’t we do that now, you might wonder?

Civics is not a credit bearing class in most Minnesota schools and is usually taught in ninth grade.  The National Assessment of Education Progress, the nation’s report card, reports that about three-fourths of our students are not proficient in civics knowledge when they graduate.  They are failing.

In Litchfield we do teach civics for credit to juniors and seniors.  We teach it to the older kids because they are ready to learn it, they are becoming voters and participants in civic life.  It works very well.  It can be done.

I’m disappointed that the Minnesota School Board Association has continued to fight these needed changes.  There have been legitimate concerns and modifications have been made in the bill to address these concerns.

Electives are still available; we have 50 that our Litchfield juniors and seniors can choose from.  The bill was amended to allow for exemptions from the civics course for rigorous type courses like honors or baccalaureate.   

Now I hear that objections are being raised about cost and having to rewrite curriculum.  That makes no sense.  Schools are supposed to be teaching civics now.  They should already have the curriculum.  By suggesting they need new curriculum, some might gather that that’s because they aren’t teaching it.

We are facing a crisis in civics education in Minnesota. What is being promoted by the Minnesota School Board Association is simply not working.  Look at the test scores, look at what is happening all around us.   

Thomas Jefferson said, “No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity.”  Sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring our failures will endanger our Republic. Contact your local school board members. Please advocate for changes in how civics is taught in Minnesota.

Darrin Anderson

Darwin, MN