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What Americans say about…

Should students study civics?

Most Americans say students should be required to study civics in schools. Only a minority of parents worry that civics classes might include political content they disagree with; even fewer teachers share that concern.

A nearly unanimous 97% of Americans say public schools should be teaching civics, including 70% saying it should be required. According to a 2018 report by Education Week, only eight states require students to enroll in a yearlong civics or government course in high school; 27 others require a semester-long course.

Civics should be mandatory. If students don't know the basics about the society in which they live how can we expect them to be good citizens?

Jean, 60, mixed-race high school teacher in suburban Delaware

In line with their focus on citizenship more generally, 81% of teachers say students should be required to take a civics class. This declines to 60% among parents, ranging from 73% of parents who have a college degree to 53% of those who don’t.

A minority of parents (29%) expresses concern that civics classes might include political content that they disagree with. Just 16% of teachers share that concern. Among all adults, this concern peaks among conservatives, evangelical Christians (both at 37%), and Republicans (35%), compared with Democrats (22%) and liberals (17%).

2019 Teaching Civics

I don't want my child attending a school where they're told America is the best and never does anything wrong because that simply isn't true. But teaching students to be proud of being an American and ways they can honor their country or support their fellow Americans is important.

Robin, 49, White mother of high school student in urban Pennsylvania

Results on civics are buttressed by another finding: Parents (78%), all adults (79%), and teachers (85%) say schools should teach values as well as factual information. Adults age 65 and older (89%) are especially keen on this approach, and moderates (85%) and conservatives (80%) are more likely than liberals (69%) to support this idea. Those who want to see schools focus on core academics are less inclined to favor teaching values (64%).

The level of support for teaching values exceeds the number who say it would be possible to get people in their community to agree on a basic set of values that should be taught. Sixty-one percent of all adults say this kind of agreement is possible, down from 69% when this question was asked in 1993. (Results are similar among parents and teachers.)

Agreement on some items might, in fact, be easier to achieve. Eighty-seven percent to 97% of all adults say public school classes on values should cover honesty, civility, respect for authority, and acceptance of people of different religions. Eighty-one percent say patriotism should be included, and 74% favor including acceptance of people of different sexual orientations.

Heck yes, patriotism should be taught in our schools. The Pledge of Allegiance should be done every morning and everyone should stand every afternoon when the flag is lowered. Every child in our public school system is an American citizen or wants to be an American citizen and should be respectful of our customs.

Sandy, 54, White mother of one in urban Missouri

Politics are a factor. Ninety-two percent of liberals and 90% of Democrats say teaching values should include acceptance of others with different sexual orientations, compared with 55% of Republicans and 53% of conservatives. (It’s 82% among moderates and 77% among political independents.)

In contrast, 94% of Republicans and 90% of conservatives say schools should cover patriotism, as do 73% of Democrats and 66% of liberals. There’s also an age gap on this question: 92% of adults age 65 and older support teaching patriotism vs. 72% of those younger than age 40 — although these are big majorities in both cases.

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