Practical application the best way
to learn civic involvement, not tests
And that involvement should include journalism
An April 21 Education Week article notes that a dozen state legislators want to require graduating students to take — and pass — a test similar to one given those who want to become U. S. citizens.
While the legislation might have some merit, it is not a solution for the best way prepare students to be contributors in a democracy.
That solution requires hands-on application of principles taught, practiced and learned in civics, history, and, we would argue, journalism classes.
“We need young citizens who are committed to helping make their communities better and who can assess policy proposals, not merely youths who know how many voting members of the U.S. House of Representatives there are,” Education Week author Joseph Kahne said in his article. ” Google provides the answer to any question on the naturalization test in seconds.”
And, we would add, legislators need to look at successful journalism programs, free of review and restraint, where students make all final decisions of content. These represent real civic engagement and learning.
Such programs are models for civic engagement and citizenship.
Journalism, news literacy and civic literacy programs would do a far better job of preparing students for the rigors of an effective democracy than a multiple choice exam or almost any non-application test.
“Democracy,” Kahne says, “thrives when citizens think critically and deeply about civic and political issues, when they consider the needs and priorities of others, and when they engage in informed action—not when they memorize a few facts.”
Again, we agree. More testing of facts and figure about the government might not hurt, but it won’t really help, either.