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July 02, 2003

strategy issues for civic ed

As I've noted before, people in the civic education world are now seriously discussing a national campaign to revive "civic ed" in schools. But there are interesting debates about strategy. It seems to me that people variously believe:

1) All the action is at the state level, where standards, assessment methods, and textbooks are chosen. So we have to intervene there, and right away. Any federal legislation that actually passes will be small potatoes.
2) A new campaign should focus at the federal level, since others are advocating in the states. Federal legislation is significant because it can generate national interest and leverage resources, and it needs to be good.
3) We need a public relations campaign to get people concerned about civic education and to raise the public salience of the issue.
4) Public relations is irrelevant, because policymakers are going to make decisions about standards and assessment too soon to be influenced by popular opinion. Besides, it would be far too expensive to raise public concern sufficiently.
5) We need to develop grassroots-level campaigns in favor of civic education, involving various local stakeholders and young people themselves.
6) We should tailor messages for select decision-makers, especially officials in state departments of education, stressing ways that they can improve civics without huge financial costs and without risking lower test scores in reading, writing, and math.

I have views on these matters (leaning toward 1 and 4, and 5 and/or 6), but I'm by no means sure that I'm right.

Posted by peterlevine at July 2, 2003 11:34 AM

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