CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
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#YouthTruth: Civic Skills Crucial at Election Time – But Are these Skills Taught to Youth?

October 24th, 2012
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An effective actor needs civic skills. That is evident every election season, when citizens must navigate state voting laws, assess various policies and positions,  and make important choices about whom and what to support. And it’s at this time of the year that the conversation about candidates, policies and issues reaches its height . Citizens need skills to articulate their views and listen to others.

Our recent fact sheet about state civic education-related laws and standards finds that many states mention civic skills:

  • 41 states reference developing skills in their state standards, and
  • 20 states have standards for service-learning, which, because it involves working on real world problems,  can teach skills.

But only eight states assess students’ learning in Civics or American Government; and only two states currently require students to pass a Civics or American Government assessment to graduate from high school. Further, those tests are multiple-choice exams that do not assess advanced civic skills, but rather factual knowledge.

Moreover, other CIRCLE research has shown that opportunities for youth to build civic skills are unequal. We coordinated a process to identify important skills and suggest favorable federal policies for building skills. After that report was released, Congress actually eliminated Learn & Serve America, a program that had helped students develop civic skills by participating in service-learning..

While many states mention skills in their civic education-related standards, they emphasize  historical information more than skills, and few states assess skills. If we expect Americans to participate, then these skills must be taught.

CIRCLE’s #YouthTruth education campaign addresses a set of myths about young people, by contributing accurate, timely, and contextualized research and data to public conversations about youth election participation.

Find more analysis in our 2016 Election Center. For regular updates in your Inbox about youth and the 2016 election, sign up for CIRCLE's monthly E-Update here.

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