Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type

Capstone - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Audrey Falk

Second Advisor

Sean McCarthy

Abstract

The recent decades have brought upon a dramatic shift in the United States’ political and social climate. Increases in ideological polarization and extremism have taken hold as individual trust, knowledge, and participation in democratic processes has declined (Gould et al., 2011). These trends have contributed to the rising severity of social issues facing the United States - climate change, income inequality, systemic racism - as well as an inability to collectively address these issues. The need for a solution to these trends has never been greater as the nation struggles to perfect a democratic structure in which citizens are equitably represented within its processes and its outcomes are truly reflective of citizens’ needs and interests. Revitalizing civic education in our nation’s K-12 schools has grown in popularity as a potential antidote for these social issues. Civic education, when implemented properly, can build a sense of agency, responsibility, and identity in our youth, propelling them towards active and meaningful engagement within their communities for decades to come. However, the current state of civic education nationwide is failing to equitably distribute these civic learning opportunities across state lines and across social groups. With unequal access to these opportunities, there is unequal access to democratic and community involvement, effectively disenfranchising a sector of our population. It is imperative that a multi-faceted response across levels of government address the state of civic education in order to prepare the next generation of citizens to take on the world’s most pressing issues. This report will examine the historical foundations of civic education, evaluate curricular and policy approaches to the subject, and, finally, produce a set of recommendations for the consideration of federal, state, and local policy makers.

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