To mark Constitution Day on Sept. 17, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), chair and ranking member respectively of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, introduced the Educating for Democracy Act.
The bill, supported by the American Bar Association, would provide grants to states, nonprofits, higher education institutions and civic education researchers to support and expand access to civic and history education. The bill would also use grants to encourage participation in the National Assessment of Educational Progress to measure student proficiency in these subjects in public and private schools and report the results at both the national and state levels.
Dating back to 1995, the ABA has longstanding policy to increase civic education in order to foster understanding of the Constitution and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, as well as to advance civic literacy as fundamental to the functioning of the United States as a constitutional democracy and a nation under the rule of law.
The ABA most recently adopted policy at its 2020 Annual Meeting urging governments and private-sector entities to promote civic education and public awareness to build societal resilience to disinformation efforts and to increase understanding of the importance of democracy, voting and democratic institutions.
Other ABA policies urge governments to require civic education for elementary, middle and secondary students in the public schools and encourage all lawyers and judges to be personally and actively engaged in civic education in their communities and schools.
A March 2020 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy found misunderstandings about constitutional rights as well as confusion about topics involving American history and democracy that are in the forefront of the news today.
“The divide in this country continues to grow as we neglect civic education and fail to build a nation adequately informed of our democratic principles, norms, and institutions,” said Rep. DeLauro. “We must focus on educating our citizens in order to sustain our democracy, and the federal government must provide the resources to support this learning.”
Rep. Cole agreed, stating “when Americans are equipped with the fundamental knowledge of our democratic principles, they are much more likely to participate.”
While passing this legislation before the end of 2020 may prove difficult, the ABA supports its introduction and will continue to advocate for governmental actions that recognize the importance of, and expand access to, civic and history education in the United States.