Political Science Now

We Still Need You! An Update on the Status of K-12 Civics Education in the United States

by Wayne Journell

In 2001, Richard Niemi and Julia Smith published an article in PS: Political Science and Politics on enrollments in high school civics and government courses. They framed their study on the premise that political scientists were ignoring an important aspect of American civic and political life, and they concluded by issuing a call for political scientists to become more involved in K-12 civics education. This article provides an update on the state of K-12 civics education, both in terms of enrollment data and the quality of the civic education that K-12 students receive. From an enrollment standpoint, more students are taking civics and government courses than ever before. However, the quality of civic education that students receive in those courses varies widely and is often correlated with students’ race and socioeconomic status. Further, the content in these courses tends to lend itself to basic knowledge of civic practices as opposed to developing skills of a larger discipline. The article concludes by renewing Niemi and Smith’s call for political science engagement in K-12 education, ranging from greater involvement by the APSA in the development of K-12 civics and government curricula to increased research on K-12 civic education by the political scientists.

We Still Need You! An Update on the Status of K-12 Civics Education in the United States, by Wayne Journell, PS: Political Science & Politics  / Volume 48 / Issue 04 / October 2015, pp 630-634