In a unanimous show of support last Wednesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to move forward on new standards for civics education in the Commonwealth. Following a vote on similar legislation in the Senate, the law would establish civics as a required subject to be taught in all public schools and create avenues for students to further engage in the subject.
Lawmakers hailed the vote as an important step toward ensuring that Massachusetts students are adequately prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship. Recent election cycles have seen youth turnout as low as 20%, and students and educators alike have called for greater investment in the subject.
“The strength of our democracy is dependent on a civically engaged and well informed electorate,” said Rep. Dylan Fernandes. “Over the past year, young people have proven that when they get involved in politics they transform the debate; this legislation will empower the leaders of tomorrow.”
Though differences emerged between the different chambers, the House version of the legislation would create a Civics Project Trust Fund to be used for professional development training for teachers and updating curricula to include a civics component. The Fund would also be tasked with funding a ‘Commonwealth Civics Challenge’ in which eighth graders statewide could competitively showcase research projects.
As part of an updated American history and social science curriculum, the bill calls for schools to include instruction on a number of civics topics, including the United States and Massachusetts constitutions, the electoral process, and media literacy.
With House passage, the bill now goes into conference committee where the two versions of the bill will be reconciled.