Civic Learning Week

Themes from Civic Learning Week

March 8, 2023

Citizens & Scholars President Raj Vinnakota, right, and Sean Healy, Senior Director of State Policy and Advocacy at CivXNow, on stage during the Civic Learning Week Opening Forum at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

I was recently in D.C. to offer the closing remarks at the Opening Forum of Civic Learning Week. The event, held at the National Archives by iCivics, featured discussions on how state leaders can shape civic education, new research in the field, and perspectives from young people. Here are the main themes I took away from the day:

The first theme: We must reinvest and reimagine civic education for the exceptional next generation that’s about to enter the public square. This new civic education must be equal parts civic knowledge, civic skills, and civic attitudes.

The second theme is to re-examine how young people can gain a factual and nuanced understanding of our country’s history and current affairs—especially from diverse perspectives.

I’d encourage us to go one step further. I’d encourage us to consider the role of schools—both K-12 and higher ed, community groups, and even the workplace in advancing freedom of expression and inquiry. Let’s be sure that by the time that young people arrive at the workplace, on a college campus, and at the voting booth, they have the “muscle memory” to understand and empathize with different points of view. To use their voice responsibly and respectfully to debate and bridge divides.

The third theme is that everyone must be a civics teacher. We cannot place the sole responsibility of developing effective citizens on a high school social studies teacher. More than ever it’s clear how each of us plays a role, especially outside of school settings.

But most importantly, let’s not forget to recenter youth in our work. We must pass Gen Z the mic, listen, welcome opportunities for them to lead, offer the support they need, and partner with them to strengthen democracy.

There’s a civic field in the making, and it is drawing more and more diverse voices than ever before, charting the course to a more inclusive and robust democracy that works for all.

That means collaborating, learning what works and what doesn’t, and leaning in where we can. We’ve got work to do, but I hope everyone leaves here feeling invigorated. I’m hopeful, not only because optimism is embedded in our DNA as a country, but because Gen Z is particularly poised to strengthen our democracy.

Find more Civic Learning Week events here.

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