Ci­vic courses make a comeback

Le re­tour de l'édu­ca­tion ci­vique aux États-Unis

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito Sommaire -

Le re­tour de l’édu­ca­tion ci­vique dans les ly­cées amé­ri­cains.

Aux Etats-Unis, si les cours d’édu­ca­tion ci­vique sont obli­ga­toires dans les ly­cées de la plu­part des états – qua­rante-deux sur cin­quante –, leur du­rée et leur te­neur va­rient gran­de­ment, et ils sont consi­dé­rés comme se­con­daires par rap­port à d’autres ma­tières. Ce­pen­dant, face à un cli­mat po­li­tique et so­cial de plus en plus in­stable, un cer­tain nombre d’écoles pu­bliques et pri­vées prennent dé­sor­mais conscience de l’im­por­tance de cette ma­tière...

MAMARONECK, N.Y. — It’s just af­ter 7 on a Thurs­day mor­ning, and Mamaroneck High School is emp­ty — ex­cept for about 30 fresh­men who are al­rea­dy sea­ted in their class­room, lap­tops in front of them. They are fi­ni­shing the first year of a new ini­tia­tive: a four-year program cal­led Ori­gi­nal Ci­vic Re­search and Ac­tion, which re­quires them to im­merse them­selves in the wor­kings of their town of Mamaroneck — 1. high school ly­cée / fresh­man élève/étu­diant de pre­mière an­née / lap­top or­di­na­teur por­table / to im­merse one­self in se plon­ger (dans) / wor­kings rouages / just north of New York Ci­ty — and find a use­ful so­lu­tion to an on­going pro­blem.


2. The pro­ject — for which stu­dents get no school cre­dit in the first year — is the brain­child of Jo­seph Li­ber­ti, a long­time go­vern­ment and his­to­ry tea­cher at the high school. And it is em­ble­ma­tic of a re­ne­wed na­tion­wide ef­fort to ad­dress, at both the high school and col­lege le­vel, is­sues that have been laid bare over the past few years — a lack of un­ders­tan­ding of and trust in most ci­vic ins­ti­tu­tions, a dis­con­nec­tion from go­vern­ment at all le­vels and in­to­le­rance for those who think and act dif­fe­rent­ly.

3. Al­though he had been pon­de­ring such a program for years — mo­de­led on si­mi­lar ones the school had in dra­ma and science — the elec­tion of Pre­sident Do­nald Trump gave it a new ur­gen­cy and “laun­ching it be­came much ea­sier in 2016,” Li­ber­ti said. “The ener­gy was there, and I was able to ride that wave.” He ex­pec­ted 12 stu­dents to si­gn up. He en­ded up with 32.


4. On­ly nine states and the Dis­trict of Co­lum­bia re­quire a full year of ci­vics edu­ca­tion, ac­cor­ding to the Cen­ter for Ame­ri­can Pro­gress; 30 states man­date a half-year, and 11 states have no man­dates. On­ly one state, Ma­ry­land, and the Dis­trict of Co­lum­bia, re­quire com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and ci­vics courses be­fore a student gra­duates. The rea­sons are va­ried, but ma­ny say the in­crea­sed fo­cus on science and mathematics, as well as stand-

ar­di­zed tests, has squee­zed out time that once would have been de­vo­ted to such courses.

5. And tests re­sults and sur­veys show that stu­dents’ — and most Ame­ri­cans’ — know­ledge of their his­to­ry and the struc­ture of their go­vern­ment is abys­mal. Scores from the Na­tio­nal As­sess­ment of Edu­ca­tio­nal Pro­gress state that in 2014, on­ly 18 percent of eigh­th­gra­ders sco­red “at” or “above pro­fi­cient” in Ame­ri­can his­to­ry. A sur­vey last year by the An­nen­berg Pu­blic Po­li­cy Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia found that 37 percent of those sur­veyed couldn’t name any of the rights gua­ran­teed un­der the First Amend­ment and about 75 percent don’t know all three branches of go­vern­ment.


6. For years, a num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions have pro­mo­ted tea­ching ci­vics, such as the Cen­ter for Ci­vic Edu­ca­tion, which pro­vides cur­ri­cu­lums and holds an­nual com­pe­ti­tions for up­per ele­men­ta­ry and middle-school stu­dents, and the Ci­vics Edu­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive, which lob­bies states to re­quire stu­dents to pass a ci­vics test be­fore gra­dua­ting.

7. But more needs to be done, es­pe­cial­ly in light of the di­vi­ded state of the coun­try, ma­ny say, and in­di­vi­duals and ins­ti­tu­tions are ta­king on the chal­lenge. One example is Po­la­ris Char­ter Aca­de­my in Chi­ca­go, whose stu­dents last year led a cam­pai­gn to ad­dress gun vio­lence in their com­mu­ni­ty; as part of that they stu­died the Cons­ti­tu­tion and the Se­cond Amend­ment and wor­ked with le­gis­la­tors, po­lice, ac­ti­vists and gang mem­bers.


8. “This is not just about a high school ci­vics class. It’s not to pre­pare stu­dents for tests, but to pre­pare them to be ac­tive, contri­bu­ting ci­ti­zens,” said Ron Ber­ger, chief aca­de­mic of­fi­cer of EL Edu­ca­tion, a non­pro­fit net­work of about 160 pu­blic and char­ter school na­tion­wide. “We’ve for­got­ten about that as a na­tion.” Po­la­ris is one of EL Edu­ca­tion’s schools.

9. In­clu­ding ci­vics edu­ca­tion and en­ga­ge­ment means “that when they go to col­lege, the kids are used to being in a deep dia­logue — they’re not going in with the idea that there’s one right ans­wer,” he ad­ded. “They learn to ne­go­tiate and hear dif­ferent pers­pec­tives.”

10. And hea­ring dif­ferent pers­pec­tives is so­me­thing that’s so­re­ly la­cking across the coun­try. Ja­co­bi Kan­del, 14, who is ta­king the Mamaroneck High School class, said that af­ter the 2016 pre­si­den­tial elec­tion, she rea­li­zed how lit­tle she un­ders­tood about the rest of the coun­try. “This town is li­be­ral, and I thought that was the way of the world,” she said. “I to­tal­ly thought Hilla­ry was going to be the first fe­male pre­sident. Then I woke up and said, ‘What’s going on?'”

Stu­dents’ know­ledge of their his­to­ry [...] is abys­mal.

(Bess Ad­ler/The New York Times)

Stu­dents from Mamaroneck High School are fi­ni­shing the first year of a program that re­quires them to im­merse them­selves in the wor­kings of their town.

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