Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Committee Vice Chair Senator Shirley Turner, Senator Troy Singleton, Senate Education Committee Chair Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, and Senator Linda Greenstein, which would require civics instruction in middle school, cleared the Senate Education Committee.
“Far too many young people could talk for hours on pop culture or sports but do not know who represents them in Washington or how they can hold elected officials accountable,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Educating the next generation on the importance of civic engagement is critical to the future of our democracy. This legislation will help ensure kids understand how our government functions, the role they play in it, as citizens, and how they can make their voices heard in order to affect change.”
The bill, S-854/237, would direct the Department of Education to require at least one course specifically in civics or United States government as part of the social studies credit requirement for middle school graduation.
“Collectively, we should all be concerned by the lack of civic awareness and political participation in our society today,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “Our youth will form the foundation of our electorate and our nation in years to come. This legislation is designed to raise awareness of the important role that civics plays in the minds of our young people as they mature into adult members of our society. By requiring civic education in school curriculum, we will hopefully boost their understanding of not only how our government works, but also their interest in the issues facing their communities, our state and our nation.”
The bill would direct the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers prepare curriculum guidelines and provide professional development for high school teachers integrating civics, economics and the history of New Jersey into United States history courses.
“This legislation will help to develop critical thinkers with a global understanding of their agency to bring about change,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Civics courses do not only teach kids how the government works, they also emphasize the importance of being an engaged citizen and explain how everyone has the ability to impact the future of our country.”
Laura Wooten, a great New Jerseyan who passed away in March of 2019, holds the record as the longest, continuously serving poll worker in the United States. She volunteered at local, primary and general election polls for 79 years.
“According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, only around 26 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government. People do not know how their government works, and this is a serious issue,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We need to make sure our students understand their government if we are going to build an engaged public that is up to the task of tackling the challenges we are facing as a nation.”
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0.