New education secretary must prioritize civics education
Strengthening our democracy by transforming civics education
As the U.S. Senate begins the confirmation hearing for Miguel Cardona to become the next Secretary of Education, it must ensure that he prioritizes a robust civics curriculum for the nation’s middle schools and high schools that includes news literacy education.
One of the primary purposes of public education is to teach the next generation about the functioning of a democratic society — and to foster its engagement as equal and engaged participants who will seek to preserve and improve democratic norms and practices. But those who lead by falsehoods represent a threat to our democracy, in part because many people lack an understanding of how our system of government works and how they can become informed about it. If we fail to teach civics, our young people — tomorrow’s voters — will be at a great disadvantage. And the fewer people who can engage in rational, fact-based debate, the greater the chance that we will be unable to govern ourselves, jeopardizing the future of our democratic way of life.
We can commit to resolve this problem by making civics the centerpiece of a quality education. An effective civics curriculum must include news literacy at its core to help young people develop critical thinking skills to discern fact from fiction and determine the credibility of the news and other content that bombards them daily. News literacy gives people the ability to become smart, active and engaged consumers of news and information and empowers them to participate in the civic life of their communities and country.
We understand the many challenges that Secretary of Education nominee Cardona faces in overcoming the unprecedented obstacles imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but this moment is too important to let civics fall by the wayside. As President Biden said in his inaugural address, “We must reject the culture where facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” Cardona can take the lead on this by recommitting the country and our education system to a civics education that has news literacy has a key component.