How to save civics from the left

We’ve written several posts about “action civics,” the attempt to smuggle leftist activism into civic education. The left has already succeeded in writing politicized “civics” requirements into state law in Illinois and Massachusetts. Now, as Stanley Kurtz reports, it is poised, with help from the Biden administration, to press “action civics” onto every state in the union. The left’s goal is to utilize schools to increase and perpetuate its partisan hold on our culture.

To combat this move, Kurtz has drafted model state-level legislation. It’s called The Partisanship Out of Civics Act.

The legislation would prevent teachers from being compelled to discuss “current events or widely debated controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.” Stanley explains:

Many teachers prefer to avoid current controversies for fear of imposing their views on students or, especially nowadays, finding themselves attacked for whatever they do, or do not, say. Civics can be taught perfectly well without invoking current controversies.

On the other hand, some teachers will want to make good use of current controversies for teaching purposes. The legislation would not prevent this:

In cases where current controversies are raised in class, the model bill says teachers should “strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives.” This is not a mandate for any particular sort of balance. The word “strive” marks the provision as aspirational. Rather than a detailed directive, this provision merely articulates an important ideal: teachers who choose to explore current controversies ought to at least attempt to avoid indoctrination and expose students to contending points of view. How precisely teachers do that is up to them.

The legislation prohibits extra-curricular “service learning” with lobbying or policy-advocacy groups from being incorporated into civics courses. This is a crucial component. As Stanley observes:

Such work is almost invariably undertaken in association with ideologically partisan groups — in practice nearly always community organizations on the left. This so-called service learning often involves students in protests or lobbying activity outside of school hours, yet it is mandated by schools.

That is inappropriate. In practice, service-learning requirements for civics courses amount to schools supplying leftist advocacy groups with free labor, while effectively forcing students into vocational training for left-wing activism. After-hours politics should not be part of school, and schools should not be mandating after-hours politics.

(Emphasis added)

There’s more to the legislation than this, as you will see if you read Stanley’s entire article.

He concludes it with this warning:

The advocates of action civics are preparing a push to spread [their civics] miseducation from Illinois and Massachusetts to the country as a whole. They will likely succeed in persuading the Biden administration to deploy federal carrots and sticks, on the model of Common Core, on behalf of that effort.

If the states — particularly the red states — want to retain control over their own systems of education, and bar illegitimate leftist indoctrination and activism from the classroom, the Partisanship Out of Civics Act — POCA — provides a legislative model that will do the job.