Civics education improvements to follow lawsuit against state
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green was joined by other educational leaders on Wednesday to announce changes to improve the state’s civics curriculum.
Infante-Green said that the state will establish a Rhode Island Civic Readiness Task Force by Sept. 1. It will be made up of 15 members picked by the Commissioner.
The task force will work with Infante-Green on the following:
- The advisability of adding a half credit course in civics in grades 8-12, which would focus upon media literacy so students can learn to effectively utilize the internet and social media
- Methods and resources to support students in how to have respectful conversations on controversial issues with individuals having different views from their own and ways to include hands-on instruction on voter registration
- Implementation of the Commissioner’s Diploma Seal of Civic Readiness for high school graduates and civics award program for middle school students
- The development of a specific definition of “civic readiness” – to include civic knowledge, civic skills (including media literacy skills), civic experiences and civic mindsets
- Implementation of the requirement in the 2021 Civic Literacy Act that every school district provide one student-led civics project for students during either middle or high school
They’ll be expected to submit an initial report to the Commissioner by March 31, 2023
The Commissioner also announced that a new Diploma Seal of Civic Readiness will be awarded to graduating high school seniors who have completed a project centered around civics. There will also be a civics award program for middle school students who have shown excellence in civic readiness.
The impending changes are the result of a lawsuit that was filed against the federal government in November.
A statement from the Rhode Island Department of Education said, “As a result of these agreements, plaintiffs did not file a petition for certiorari and attempt to appeal the dismissal of their suit by the First Circuit Court of Appeals to the United States Supreme Court. Cook v. McKee was a class action suit against the State of Rhode Island in which plaintiffs alleged that the State had breached their rights under the United States Constitution by failing to provide them with an adequate education in civics.”
Students in the state said they weren’t satisfied with their civics education, saying that they weren’t learning enough about government, taxation, or voting.
“Our children deserve an education that will prepare them to lead full, rich lives both professionally and as citizens of our democracy,” said Infante-Green.
“Our school system in America is just inherently failing so many students because it’s not giving students the information they need to actively contribute to making changes in this country,” said Musah Mohammed Sesay, one of the 14 plaintiffs in the suit with ages ranging from elementary to high school, back in November.