Report: U.S. History, Civics Education Inadequate in Maine Schools
Friday, July 2, 2021
AUGUSTA, Maine -- Civics and history education are lacking in Maine, according to a new report.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute rated every state's civics and U.S. history standards for Kindergarten through 12th grade and found 20 were inadequate in both categories, including Maine.
Justin Chenette, president of the Maine Democracy Project, served eight years in the Maine Legislature and was the youngest person elected to the body, at age 21. He hopes to see more incentives in the future for experiential civics learning, whether it be trips to the State House or high school voter-registration drives.
"While we might have a sort of statewide objective in social studies to teach civics, every school district sort of interprets curriculum differently," Chenette explained. "Every school district handles what they're learning in the classroom differently from another district."
Maine received a failing grade, both for civics education and U.S. history. Maine's social studies standards include four strands: civics and government, personal finance and economics, geography, and history. But the report said they failed to articulate what the curriculum should look like.
David Griffith, senior research and policy associate at the Institute, said many states are struggling with civics education, in part because of how politicized the conversation has become.
"In general, it's kind of a war zone, right?" Griffith observed. "There's so much controversy over how these things should be taught that it's getting in the way of just ensuring that they are taught, and that kids have some sense of these things."
Critical race theory, an academic concept that examines the role of racism within U.S. law, has become one of the latest controversial talking points, but Griffith believes the discussion over critical race theory is a distraction that pushes people apart.
"One of the messages of the report, and one of the things that we're trying to get at is, look, if you can get past these buzzwords, you may discover that you agree on more than you realize," Griffith remarked.
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