U.S. civics education, if it exists at all, is being transformed into a political machine to push left-wing causes, undermine American government, and incite civil unrest, finds a 525-page report from the National Association of Scholars.
The “New Civics” uses attractive, bipartisan-sounding words like “civics” and “service learning” to trick Americans and their representatives into allowing progressive political machinery to hijack public funds and young minds, finds “Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics.”
“[T]he content of civics education is the content of our children’s minds, and a progressive takeover of the colleges will end up as a progressive takeover of the country. We have been warned,” concludes the report. NAS is a membership and research organization focused on American higher education.
Americans Are Forgetting America
This new, anti-American approach is supplanting traditional civics—teaching kids about the structure and ideals of American government, basics about her history, and citizenship duties such as military service, voting, and jury duty. Poor civics instruction has increased over the past half-century, likely contributing to the broad decline of American civic life: volunteering has dropped dramatically despite increases in unemployment and free time, far fewer Americans participate in social activities and organizations, those who join the military are increasingly drawn from a narrowing subset of Americans, and many adults have scant knowledge of American government and history (but still can vote!).
A series of surveys of adult Americans from 2008 to 2011 found that college graduates tended to know less than the average American about basic government functions, although the average American failed the test with or without a college degree. “[W]hile college adds little to civic knowledge, it does seem to encourage graduates to identify more strongly with the Democrat and Liberal ends of the political spectrum,” one of these reports found.
Younger students are no better. Although the Obama administration replaced national civics and U.S. history exams with technology assessments in 2013, their results were consistently poor: “In 2010, the last time the history test was administered, students performed worse on it than on any other NAEP test. Less than half the eighth-graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights, and only 1 in 10 could pick a definition of the system of checks and balance.”
This is a major problem for a country like America, the NAS report notes, because America is a country founded not on blood or soil but on common consent to a particular structure of self-government articulated in the Declaration of Independence.
“Civics education gives us the capacity to be Americans,” the report says. “…Above all, civics education is supposed to teach students how to be citizens rather than subjects, how to be self-governing rather than governed, and how to be free without usurping the freedom of others. These lessons collectively have been taken to be necessary to equip students to embrace their civic rights and responsibilities, and assume their birthright as American citizens.”
Once citizens’ knowledge of and consent to this social compact disappears, so does America.
Fundamentally Transforming America
The NAS report says a key factor in this civic disintegration is something called the New Civics, which replaces traditional civics with community organizing. That means teaching students that citizenship means looking for grievances, then agitating for bigger government to address them. It also means giving students college credit for “service learning”—which means paying tuition to perform unpaid work for leftist organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
“Look at any radical left protest, and like as not you will find a New Civics program somewhere in the background,” the report says. “…The New Civics is working to make such radical protest a daily occurrence, and America ungovernable save along progressive lines. The New Civics revolution has already begun.”
This substitution emotion-driven unrest for constructive public service and rational thought has become endemic across the country, and examples abound. At Eastern Michigan University and elsewhere, students have served “demands” that essentially attempt to hijack public funds for their private agendas—a key feature of the New Civics.
Self-described socialist organizations are mobilizing college students across the country to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday. In recent years high school students have been also getting in on the act, leading public protests and walkouts over challenges to being taught left-biased American history. In a memo to inform federal grant-making, New Civics leader Todd Gitlin called “the eruption of Occupy [Wall Street]” “a civic achievement.”
This is what the New Civics trains young people to do, under the guise of “civic engagement,” “volunteering,” and “service learning,” the NAS report shows, in great detail. It gives a meticulous history of this movement, including its roots in communist pressure groups and sympathizers and its current outworkings in four state universities, selected for their location in America’s heartland to demonstrate this movement’s broad reach.
The New Civics’ organizers want to make absorbing their ideas and working their organizations a graduation requirement for all college and high school students. Federal service learning, higher education, and curriculum grants have aligned to the New Civics and are helping drive it nationwide.
Such efforts are bearing fruit. By 2010, half of all college students reported they’d participated in “service learning” to earn credits. In 2012, the report says, “Massachusetts made Civic Learning a requirement for all state colleges and universities,” and Illinois recently made it a graduation requirement.
The report estimates U.S. higher education spends at least $40 billion per year on New Civics. Students at just 400 of 4,726 U.S. higher ed institutions “spent 155 million hours on service rather than studying just in 2013-14, and the losses to their lifetime knowledge and earning potential must be measured in further billions.”
The New Civics is also filtering down into K-12, assisted by the lack of strong civics and U.S. history curricula and its cultivation of “experts” who influence teacher training, curriculum and testing, and government mandates. New Civics advocates want to see it affecting all areas of curricula. Here’s an example of it applied to math, which recalls the politicized and ineffective “New Math” curricula in K-12: “use quantitative analysis to explore disparities in public school funding, loan structure variations for low-income home purchasers, and the injustices in court decisions made due to misunderstanding or ignorance of probability and probabilistic evidence.”
The New Civics Should Be Called ‘Anarchy’
The report exposes a major tactic of New Civics advocates: using words that normal Americans like and trust, but that to them carry dramatically different meanings than common usage.
“The New Civics advocates have also prospered by taking advantage of the American public’s trust that people hired to educate their children actually have that object in mind,” the report says. “They abuse that trust by using the anodyne vocabulary of ‘volunteerism’ and ‘civics’ to obscure their radical political agenda.”
New Civics is actually anti-civics: it teaches students how to be bad citizens, how to dismantle rather than preserve and improve their country. New Civics teaches young people to revolt against the country that, among other things, educated them, provided for their security against foreign aggressors, and secured liberties most people in the world never had and still don’t have: freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to a representative government dependent on citizen consent. Since they’re utterly ignorant of these basic historical truths, the young people hearing this propaganda have few defenses.
As the NAS report says: “[Young Americans] can’t be blamed for what they had never been taught. Their answers merely reflect the neglect of traditional civics instruction at every level of education, from grade school through college.”
NAS recommends a bevy of immediate and long-term actions to address this existential crisis. They include immediately pausing all public funding for related initiatives; requiring public universities to provide a full, transparent accounting of these activities; restoring related core curriculum requirements in high school and college; making volunteering voluntary again by ending public subsidies and academic credit for it; and creating new institutions dedicated to nurturing genuine American civic learning.
It also endorses the Civics Education Initiative to require passing the U.S. citizenship test for high school graduation. Fourteen states have recently done so, and 26 are expected to consider such legislation in 2017.