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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Citizenship and the Education Agenda

At Remapping Debate, Diane Jean Schemo writes about the education policy agenda is often overlooking preparation for active citizenship, including civics and citizenship education. The article concludes:

Cathy Corbo, president of the Albany Teacher’s Union, maintained that teachers had their hands full in New York State with the current raft of academic requirements. Why would they demand yet more?

“It’s already a full boat, in terms of getting kids through high school. In urban areas, we’re struggling already with graduation rates that are not acceptable. And a lot of that has to do with the rigor of what people need to do to graduate. Adding something else would probably be a bit of a burden, unless you’re going to pull something else off.”

To a large extent, Corbo said, teachers teach whatever the state curriculum requires. A Baby Boomer herself, Corbo said today’s new teachers lack the political fire of her generation at a similar age. Corbo’s generation famously marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. It joined sit-ins up north to end Jim Crow segregation down south.

Did she think that the apathy of today’s young teachers was related to a lack of education for their roles as citizens when they were students?

Corbo said she was not sure. “When they do protest, it is usually over something related to their working conditions." They worry about the rise of charter schools, which, she said, siphon students away from neighborhood schools only to send them back when problems arise.

I asked Corbo whether she thought it had any direct impact on her and her colleagues when students graduate and become voters unequipped with the tools to evaluate claims and counterclaims in the political arena.

“I guess I’m sure it does," Corbo said, and paused a moment, before adding, “civics has never come up as an issue.”