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Community service as a civics lesson

January 1, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Some school districts require students to participate in community service as a graduation requirement. That data should be mined.

The new year has sprung, and kids will be returning to classrooms any day now. Are they on track to move forward?

The question excludes attendance records, of course, since being in school means students lose out on learning civics, history and other courses and since not being in school means they miss out on learning.

There are learning opportunities outside classrooms, such as parks, monuments, museums and historic sites. Taking tours of such places offers young people the prospect to imagine what was. How did we walk on the moon? Who built the great pyramids of Egypt? What was the Underground Railroad?

There’s so much for young people to see and experience, but traditional American classrooms barely skim the surface. And when it comes to civics, the reality isn’t much better.

As David Tucker of Ashland University points out in Tuesday’s Opinion section, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress civics exam was quite sobering, “showing that only 23 percent of the 29,000 8th graders given the test were found to be ‘proficient’ in the subject.” Sad but true.

Perhaps the problem rests with the fact that much of the teaching and learning in schools rest in the abstract. A generation of teachers is trying to teach things they themselves never experienced.

They can’t “proficiently” teach about jury duty because they’ve never experienced it. They can’t “proficiently” teach about crucial liberty, freedom and democracy because they’ve never not experienced them never felt the oppressive thumbs of autocratic rule.

They can’t teach that a student has the right to say a morning prayer upon entering a classroom because they’ve never experienced it.

Meanwhile, they and their educratic overseers want students to be absent from school so they can participate in “civic activism.”

Again, as Mr. Tucker writes: “Montgomery County, Maryland, is expected to go ‘all in’ next year on a new policy encouraging ‘civic engagement’ by high school students, allowing them to take several days off each year to participate in political activities and causes.”

I’ll be blunt: They want to allow students to skip school to protest like the women with the “pussy hats,” Antifa, abortion rights and pro-life supporters, “Never Trump” and “Feel the Bern” backers. You get the picture.

That’s not such much civic engagement as it is public education systems preparing to hand teens another excuse for teachers not to teach and students not to learn.

Not convinced? Look at it this way: An excused absence could be granted if, for example, students attended a rally to protest, say, the government shutdown and were assigned to write about the experience in an historical context. Was it the first shutdown? Has there been a shutdown during Democratic and Republican presidencies? How and why was each different?

If no assignment is attached, it’s just a day off.

We all get the fact that much of America is in the mood for raising Cain yet know not who Cain was, and the purveyors of public schooling mislead teachers and principals to believe that teaching about Cain (and his brother, Abel) is illegal. Teaching about abortion rights, condoms and gender neutrality is a civic virtue, however?

If you’re still a doubting Thomas, check out your children’s school policy on community service and see if it pushes them toward giving back. Or if it merely aligns them with a taxpayer-funded policy that, say, gives two thumbs up to climate change.

You’ve got a bit of time to mine the data before the next school advisory ends.

And, as always, have a happy new year.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contactedat dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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