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Study finds more civic education needed: Only 33% of Americans would pass citizenship test

As political tensions have risen in the last few years, experts are calling for a bigger emphasis on civic education.

In a 2021 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, only half of people surveyed could name all three branches of government, a big increase from 39% in 2019.

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Carisa Corrow, a former teacher and founder of the Educating for Good project, feels a premium has been placed on standardized tests. She thinks students should learn more about how the government functions while engaging in more debate. She feels it is being discouraged today.

“We don’t have debate and so, that really is problematic,” Corrow asserted. “Because then people just aren’t able to have conversations about facts and perspectives around events.”

She argued it is important to see how others interpret information. Another survey, by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, finds only one in three Americans would pass a citizenship test. The battle for civics continues, especially in the face of numerous elected officials looking for more aggressive control over the classroom.

People in support of civics education say it is about establishing more transparency. Corrow countered it scares teachers away from approaching important topics students should be talking about. She worries about the impact on voter turnout when students graduate.

Educational concept about Civic Education with phrase on the piece of paper.

“And not just vote in the national elections, but vote at local elections,” Corrow emphasized. “How many people are participating in local boards, and so, we struggle to find people to engage in that type of work.”

Though Corrow’s work has been done in New Hampshire, she feels a national push for enhanced civics is necessary across the U.S. She thinks schools are a great place to practice democracy, and options such as student councils or even teachers assigning daily classroom tasks, such as helping pass out materials, can help build a sense of community.