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America’s education system is in crisis. Across all metrics, primary education in the United States is rapidly falling behind.
Internationally, American students have stumbled from 15th to 40th place in mathematics. At home, U.S. social studies scores were sadly no better. For our eighth grade students, only 14% reached at or above the “proficient” mark in history, and in civics only 22% met the same benchmark.
Given these statistics it is not surprising that a 2022 Gallup poll found that 55% of parents are dissatisfied with the quality of K-12 education. The pandemic only amplified the problem but also alerted parents and the nation to the true state of the U.S. education system.
So what is the solution to America’s education woes? Part of the solution resides with state legislatures planning for “longer-term policy changes,” argues a nonpartisan research team from Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth and Johns Hopkins.
AMERICA’S CIVICS CRISIS MEANS TOO MANY STUDENTS DON’T EVEN KNOW THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Florida is leading the way in answering this call for bold planning of our student’s future.
In 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative, a $106 million program to elevate civic literacy and education. Offering a reimagined curriculum, teacher professional development seminars, as well as an oral history and primary source database, Florida is empowering educators and students alike to achieve excellence.
This program is not isolated to the classroom. Florida’s Civics Seal of Excellence program pairs teachers online with expert scholars and practitioners in history, government and political science in a first-of-its-kind program. The state’s 2023 Summer Civics Education Professional Learning Series is a three-day in-person program designed to reacquaint, or in some cases educate, teachers on the incredible legacy the nation’s founders left future generations of Americans in our founding documents.
As part of this effort, Florida’s Board of Education joined with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to equip educators with the resources they need to effectively teach about communism.
MOMS FOR LIBERTY SHOWS SPIRIT THAT WOULD MAKE FOUNDING FATHERS PROUD
The beauty of this program is that it partners teachers with victims of communism and socialism, demonstrating first-hand the gift of our republic by focusing on core civics topics such as the founders, federalism, voting and the U.S. Congress while contrasting them with the legacy of Karl Marx’s communist ideology and subsequent communist regimes – a history of repression and violence with more than 100 million people killed and billions more enslaved.
States across the nation would do well to emulate this educator training model. After all, our students deserve the best education in the world. And to prepare the next generation of leaders, they must understand the fundamental rights and responsibilities that American citizenship entails. More than that, our students must graduate ready for the challenges of the modern world and prepared to be productive, contributing citizens of our nation.
Florida’s civics program is a giant step in the right direction.
America’s history – the good and the bad alike – cannot be ignored and Florida covers the dark periods while also emphasizing the overwhelming good. It is this very legacy that has shaped and strengthened our nation. By inscribing “certain inalienable rights” into our form of government, the founders paved the way for our nation to grow despite the challenges along the way.
The founders looked beyond their initial footprint toward an America that is now a shining beacon of freedom for so many, including those fleeing communism, tyranny and oppression. These aspiring citizens recognize that America is a land of incredible opportunity unique in the course of human history. They often risk much, including their very lives, to join us.
As Florida’s Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative shows, our past is worth remembering. America’s founding promises of a just society and our steady march to achieve that perfect union make the United States a truly great nation. We can and Florida has successfully navigated telling that story without avoiding difficult conversations about our history.
Florida is leading the nation by equipping tens of thousands of teachers to introduce these concepts to millions of students in the classroom. And while this initiative is just beginning, its legacy is already plain to see: a brighter tomorrow is indeed possible if classrooms focus on the lessons of America’s founding principles and unique democratic experiment.
By recognizing and acknowledging the true uniqueness of our form of government, we equip students to seize opportunities to excel and to achieve a brighter future for themselves and the nation.
Ken Pope is the CEO of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an educational, research, and human rights nonprofit organization devoted to commemorating the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world and to pursuing the freedom of those still living under totalitarian regimes.