Political Science Now

Civic Education: A Key to Trust in Government

Chapter 6: Civic Education: A Key to Trust in Government

Katherine Barrett and Richard GreeneBarrett and Greene, Inc.

According to a 2016 Gallup poll, some 37 percent of Americans surveyed had little trust or confidence in their states. There are many plausible reasons for this sad fact, not the least of which is the currently rancorous state of affairs in political circles. But it has become increasingly clear that the decline in civics education is one important factor. How, after all, can a citizen trust government if he or she doesn’t understand it.

Though civic education was relatively common decades ago, it’s become a relative rarity in the K-12 system and even the nations’ public universities. What’s more, many of the classes dubbed “civics” begins and ends with the basic principals of the federal government: three branches, a supreme court, and so on.

The good news is that a growing number of school districts and states are joining in a movement to resuscitate civic education. Illinois and Florida  lead the pack with progressive efforts underway.

Though there is no one-size-fits all approach to improving young people’s understanding of their states and localities, this chapter doesn’t just highlight the challenges, it focuses in on the success stories. And it offers up some innovative solutions to the dearth of civic education in America.

Download the book & read the full chapter.


About the Authors 

Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, a husband-and-wife team, have focused on the field of city and state government through research, analysis, consultation and writing for over twenty five years. They are principals of Barrett and Greene, Inc.

They are special project consultants to the Volcker Alliance, senior fellows with the Council of State Governments, senior fellows at the Fels Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, and fellows in the National Academy of Public Administration.

They are also management columnists for Governing Magazine and senior fellows at the Governing Institute. With underwriting from the Pew Charitable Trusts, they founded, spearheaded, and wrote the Government Performance Project, which was utilized for annual “grading the states” (cities, counties) for a decade, ending in 2008.

Barrett and Greene have also served in an advisory capacity to many organizations including the National League of Cities, the Urban Institute, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, the Association of Government Accountants, the National Association of State Chief Administrators Offices, the Center for a Better South, and others.

Teaching Civic Engagement Across the Disciplines / Copyright ©2017 by the American Political Science Association / pp: 65-72