National Civics Day encourages leadership, community engagement
Friday, October 27, 2023
Today is National Civics Day, rooted in history and a reminder of the importance of learning the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. On this date in 1787, the first Federalist Papers were published and used as a philosophical basis for the U.S. Constitution.
Charlie Hyde, president and CEO of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis, said a civics education has a more distinct purpose than a history or social studies course.
"This is all about encouraging public participation in our American system of self-government," he said. "Learning about civics encourages critical thinking, community engagement, civil civic discourse. If you understand how your government functions, then you can take a leadership role."
House Bill 1384, passed in the 2021 Indiana General Assembly, mandates that, starting in this current school year, Indiana students take one civics class in the sixth, seventh or eighth grade.
A 2021 Indiana Civic Health Index by the Indiana Bar Foundation found voter registration rates in the state are highest among people with college degrees - at almost 85% - followed by those with some college, at 77%. Voter registration among high school graduates was 63%. The index also found that in the 2020 election, Indiana ranked 46th among states for its low voter turnout.
Hyde cited many avenues to civic engagement.
"You might lead your local school PTA, or you might decide at some point to run for office, or maybe you just want to help change a law, or put something into action," he said. "It's important to know how to make those things happen."
The Civic Health Index recommended establishing a school program, modeled after the state's STEM certification program, to improve civic education by 2023 - and increasing civics course requirements at all grade levels by 2026.
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