“Well, it happened last night,” said teacher Christopher Gleditsch. He was talking about the event he had discussed in class the day before: the removal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, as Speaker of House. Gleditsch said to the class that this had never happened in American history.
The timing of the event was perfect, as the class just finished studying the legislative branch and the leaders. The upheaval on Capitol Hill was a chance for the class to look at how well — or not — that structure is working right now.
Gleditsch asked why a small group of fellow Republicans went after McCarthy.
“They decided to remove him because he was siding with the Democrats at certain times. … (NPR does not use students’ last names because they are minors.) NPR does not use the last names of students because they are minors.
KIPP DC College Prep students taking AP U.S. Government.
Students at Minneapolis’ Hiawatha Collegiate High school discuss polarization in the federal government.
This is according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. “One thing about civic education that’s challenging is that we neglected it for the past three decades or so,” she says. That’s according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.“One of the things about civic education that’s challenging is that we neglected it for the past three decades or so for sure,” she says.A 2021
report funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education estimated that the federal government spends about $50 per student per year on studies related to science and math, but only five cents on civics.
That’s a problem, Kawashima-Ginsberg says, because not only does civics education teach students how the government is supposed to function, it also teaches students how to disagree with one another in a productive way.
“Schools can offer different opportunities in that students will meet somebody that thinks differently than themselves. And that practice of doing that with somebody and then still coming back with something they learned is going to go a long way,” says Kawashima-Ginsberg, who was on the report committee. The stakes are high, says Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, who was also on the committee. “We are clearly displaying signs that we are living in a dangerous political environment, with anger and demonization on one extreme and disaffection and people tuning out on the other extreme,” says Carrese. He says that teachers at any level can make lemonade out of the lemon when there is bad news or something striking in the news. It’s not that we are perfect or flawless, but I think it’s a wonderful human story. It’s important to make young people interested in it. “
The turmoil on Capitol Hill was used as a lesson in high school civics, such as one taught at KIPP DC College Prep, located in Northeast Washington, D.C.