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Report: Civics Education Could Mend Polarized Nation

A new report says making civics education a much higher priority might be key to stabilizing an increasingly divided nation. (Pixabay)
A new report says making civics education a much higher priority might be key to stabilizing an increasingly divided nation. (Pixabay)
October 2, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY – Researchers are issuing a serious warning with a hint of hope – the United States is at risk, but solutions can be found in Utah and across the nation.

Peter Levine, associate dean at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, says an increasing number of Americans say they dislike or even loathe people who support political views different from their own.

Deep distrust of institutions, including the federal government, organized religion and public schools, is also increasing, Levine says.

He explains what is at risk if these divisions continue.

"Falling apart,” he states. “Our basic political institutions not functioning or not functioning nearly adequately, and our people becoming increasingly polarized and angry at each other to the point where we're not really governable."

Levine co-authored a new report that says part of the solution is to require more students to take courses on civics, government, law and related topics to ensure they're better informed and more likely to vote. He says one solution is to invest resources and create professional development opportunities in order to increase civic learning opportunities.

Levine notes that large civic associations that were more popular in the 20th century, such as organized religion and unions, have given way to narrower agendas.

As challenging as things are now, Levine is convinced there's reason to be hopeful.

"I think the way forward is through the next generation,” he stresses. “There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about them, their idealism and their openness to a variety of views.

“But I do think we need to educate them better than we do now for citizenship. And so, if we do that, then I'm pretty optimistic in the long run."

The report includes a chart that summarizes the key civic learning policies in each state and pinpoints what the research team sees as the areas of greatest need.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT