When I campaigned for State Representative last year, Gorham and Scarborough voters told me that we needed to do more to protect our democracy for future generations, especially when it comes to civics education. To that end, I have submitted legislation to change graduation requirements and elevate the importance of civics education in schools.
In his inaugural address to Congress in 1797, John Adams warned the nation that schools were, “The only means of preserving our constitution from its natural enemies,” which he named as “sophistry” [fake news], “party” [polarization], “intrigue” [conspiracy theories], “profligacy” [recklessness], “corruption” and “foreign influence.”
Generations of Americans were educated in schools to understand this warning, value the awesome responsibilities of American citizenship and keep a watchful eye over our nation. Unfortunately, democracy and citizenship education has been demoted as a priority over the decades due to competing obligations imposed on schools by society and the state.
My civics bill proposes to pull “civics” and “government” out from underneath the “history” section of the graduation requirements and award a new category for the democracy and citizenship life skills that are already detailed in the Maine Learning Results: citizenship, government, personal finance and entrepreneurship. This simple fix elevates the importance of civics education without imposing a new course mandate on schools, without negatively impacting the American history requirement, and without increasing the total minimum basic requirements. Because I share the concerns of Gorham and Scarborough citizens who are passionate about the need to address racial and social injustice in our society, my bill also includes language to promote the perspectives of historically marginalized communities in the teaching of American history.