I was asked recently by an administrator about students who decide not to participate in patriotic exercises like the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance. It is a difficult situation, because symbolic speech is a right, but disrespect isn’t something we want to encourage.
Last year the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) hosted over 287 focus groups in twenty communities across the state, asking “What are the characteristics, qualities, abilities and skills of a successful 24-year old Kansans? Kansas community and business leader focus groups identified “citizenship, ethics, and duty to others” as an important set of interpersonal social skills critical for student success. As a result, KSDE created a civic engagement initiative and created a description of a successful Kansas high school graduate which included civic engagement. This is not about “having the skills” necessary to be civically engaged, it is about being civically engaged.
KSDE defines civic engagement as: “Individuals sharing their skills and knowledge through actions intended to improve communities, states, nations, the world, and themselves.”
The state board of education approved the creation of the Civic Advocacy Network, an award for elementary, middle, and high schools that create outstanding civic engagement opportunities for their students. The purpose of this award is to recognize schools that actively involve students in civic engagement opportunities and to collect exemplary practices to share with schools across the state. The ultimate goal is to promote civic engagement as part of all preK-12 students’ experiences. In order for students to cultivate a commitment to civic participation and to become active members of communities, students need regular opportunities to engage in civic learning activities. These opportunities must be part of a systematic approach which includes the school, classrooms, teachers, and students. The Civic Advocacy Network intends to recognize schools that have made civic engagement an integral part of the school culture and fosters collaboration among district administrators, teachers, and students to highlight how civic engagement has been integrated into school culture. Civic engagement isn’t learned by reading text, listening to a lecture, or watching a video. Students learn to be civically engaged by being civically engaged. (Guidebook: Six Proven Practices For Effective Civic Learning)
The program is being piloted in more than 70 schools this year, and will be rolled out to all schools for the 2017-2018 school year. Winners will be announced on Constitution Day, September 17th 2018.
“That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.” (Thomas Jefferson to H.D. Tiffin 1807)
Don Gifford History, Government, Social Studies Consultant Kansas State Department of Education