By Bob Katzen
The House 151-0, approved a bill that makes changes in the current law that all public schools must provide instruction in American history and civics. Current law requires that the instruction include the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights; the state Constitution and local history and government; a program on the correct use and display of the U.S. flag; and the importance of participation in the electoral process
The bill adds several topics that are required to be in the instruction including a study of the roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy; the development of skills to access, analyze and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics; community diversity and historical trends in voter registration; and civic participation relative to disenfranchised voter populations.
“Now more than ever, it is vital to commit to strengthening youth voice, participation and civic engagement,” said Executive Director Arielle Jennings of Generation Citizen’s Massachusetts. “We are delighted to see this commitment fulfilled by the unanimous passing of this bill and to see the commonwealth take such a pivotal step toward becoming the national leader in civic education.”
“At a time when roughly three-quarters of the citizens do not know the three branches of government and more people know who the Three Stooges are, we need to recommit ourselves to civic education,” said Steven Rothstein the executive director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
The Senate has already approved a different version of the bill and the House version now goes to the Senate for consideration. The major difference in the two bills is that the Senate version makes it mandatory beginning in 2021 for all students to complete one student-led civics project after 8th grade in order to graduate.