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December 7, 2004

public attitudes toward civics

The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools has launched a spiffy website loaded with information. (The Campaign must really exist if we have a website.) On the homepage are the results of a new survey that we conducted jointly with the Alliance for Representative Democracy. It's a survey of public attitudes toward civic education. There is much good news, including the fact that 71% of adults consider it important to "prepare students to be competent and responsible citizens who participate in our democratic society." (There was no tradeoff question, however, which asked them to say whether they would put less money or time into basic math, reading, and science skills in order to enhance citizenship education.) In any event, I was somewhat disturbed by the answers to an open-ended question about "the most important reason for including civic education programs in k-12 public schools." My favorite reasons--encouraging civic or political involvement, preparing better leaders, and sustaining democracy--were mentioned by 13% of respondents, total. The most popular answer was "making better members of society." This result is consistent with research from focus groups in which many parents said that civic education was a way to improve the personal behavior of other people's children.

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