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Raising Government-Savvy Teens in Washington

April 30, 2009

Olympia, WA – Someday, if you want to know more about what's happening in local or state politics, you should be able to ask a teenager. On Friday, educators and lawmakers get together in Olympia to decide what should be done to ensure that Washington teens are informed citizens. At the Civics Education Forum, teachers and students from around the state will show how different schools handle the topic.

Catherine Ahl, education chair with the League of Women Voters, says there’s no set curriculum for teaching students about how government works, although there’s general agreement that they need to know more.

"League members who have been going in the schools see the lack of information on the state level and the local level of government – which, of course, tends to affect people more closely – but yet, it’s the form of government that they know the least about."

The League won a victory this year in Olympia when state legislators passed a bill to require a civics class the next time graduation requirements in the state are changed, says Ahl.

"That adds a half a credit of social studies to what is there now, and we felt that that half a credit ought to be civics. And that’s exactly what the bill does, is make that half-credit a civics class."

Ultimately, it's up to the State Board of Education to add a mandatory civics course to high school graduation requirements, but the legislature paved the way for it this session. The Civics Education Forum is free of charge and open to the public Friday afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the State Capitol building's Columbia Room.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA