March 22, 2021 Oped by Rep. Paul Evans (OR) and Sen. Lew Frederick (OR) First printed in the Statesman Journal on March 19 We need dedicated civics education in Oregon. Oregon lawmakers and citizens alike have long taken pride that our politics are done “the Oregon Way.” While there have always been and will be differences of opinion over policies, “the Oregon Way” aspires to respect […]
March 22, 2021
Oped by Rep. Paul Evans (OR) and Sen. Lew Frederick (OR)
First printed in the Statesman Journal on March 19
We need dedicated civics education in Oregon.
Oregon lawmakers and citizens alike have long taken pride that our politics are done “the Oregon Way.” While there have always been and will be differences of opinion over policies, “the Oregon Way” aspires to respect our differences and still find common causes to solve problems and improve Oregonians’ lives.
These are charged political times, and the idea of bipartisan collaboration towards a shared goal may seem unattainable to some. However, our government and institutions continue to provide the vital framework that allows people to make real progress possible. Ours is a democratic republic of, by, and for the people and when the people engage, our potential is limitless.
Yet, there is a growing crisis in our collective civic knowledge. Too few Americans are aware of the government’s basic functions or roles as citizens to help shape the future. It’s reported that only 25 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government; nearly one-third of Americans are unable to name any; while 75 percent of Americans born in the 1930s believe it is essential to living in a democracy, that number has plummeted to roughly 30 percent for Americans born in the 1980s.
Sharing a common understanding of our government is fundamental to the long-term health of our democracy. It is the basis that fosters engaged citizens and good government. We cannot allow this shared belief to be eroded by greater levels of cynicism and disenfranchisement. Fortunately, there is a simple first step we can take together: providing every Oregon student a basic civic education.
This legislation will ensure every student receives a civics education course before they graduate. This bill does not increase the number of credits students need to graduate and will utilize the existing curriculum. However, under this bill, teachers will have the ability to design specific courses that provide an in-depth understanding of our government’s workings versus relying on the current system that asks teachers to find ways to insert pieces of it in other courses.
Our deepening political divide exposes the need for dedicated civics education, but Oregon remains only one of 11 states without such a requirement.
Research shows that students who receive quality civics education are more likely to vote, discuss politics at home and develop skills that lead to employment. In this session, the Oregon Legislature must equip Oregon students with the tools necessary to be successful 21st-century workers and citizens.
A recent survey showed that a significant majority of Republicans and Democrats believe that civics education for K-12 students “would have the most positive and meaningful impact on strengthening the American identity.”
“The Oregon Way” and our very democracy are in jeopardy unless future generations are ready to maintain it. That is why we must pass The Civics Education Act this session.
Sen. Lew Frederick. D-Portland, represents Senate District 22 which includes North and Northeast Portland. You may reach him at Sen.LewFrederick@oregonlegislature.gov
Rep. Paul Evans. D-Monmouth, represents House District 20, which includes the communities of Independence, Monmouth, and portions of South and West Salem. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org