Civic Education and Cultural Interdependence: An American Teacher Reads a Russian Writer Besides Tolstoy and Rand

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In 1974, quite possibly around the time I was conceived, a Russian author, historian and educator who was exiled for treason, published an essay that insists upon civic courage. In discovering Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Live Not by Lies,” I uncovered another layer of my being: the woman I can refer to as a passive resistor. Solzhenitsyn’s message to the people of his native land ignites my disdain for injustice, fuels my demand for authenticity, and illuminates why I conceived SĀHGE Academy. Simply put, Solzhenitsyn’s essay is the reading this week that lit the embers of my passion for learning and inspired this entry!

Civic Education Assessment

In 2018, the most recent assessment year for the National Assessment of Educational Progress- and the year SĀHGE was founded, a little over 13,000 eighth graders took the NAEP in civics. Under twenty-five percent of the students scored at or above proficiency. Shocking? Well, wait ’til you read this: The scores showed no significant improvement from the assessment four years prior or in 1998 when the assessment was first administered. Adding insult to injury, eighth grade is the last grade in which U.S. students’ civic literacy is assessed.

Low-stakes in Civiv Literacy

According to the Nation’s Report Card, “the grade 12 NAEP assessment is a voluntary assessment with ‘low-stakes’ for students (i.e., students do not receive a NAEP score).” We live in a political world. Civic literacy is equally as fundamental a need as reading, writing and numeracy. Yet, under 25 percent of graduates of the world’s leading country are proficient in civics. How can these students become adults who pursue life, liberty and happiness when they don’t know they already possess these rights and that their government’s role is to secure them?

Civic Rules of Engagement

High school “mission” statementacross the U.S. have touted the preparation of students who will produce, contribute and engage as citizens of a changing world. How does anyone engage prolifically in citizenship if they’re unaware of their government’s rules of engagement? if they’re uneducated about cultural and political interdependency? if they’re ignorant of historical facts? If civics is a course offering, no empirical measure of efficacy is in place. How can schools deliver on a promise that lacks accountability in their performance plan? 

Please know that SĀHGE Academy does not hold testing as the paramount assessment tool for academic mastery. We do believe, though, that application of civic literacy once one reaches the so-called age of majority is paramount to liberated engagement and joyful production and contribution to the world; it’s imperative to the pursuit of lifeWe can see by the state of affairs in the world that America is failing.

But if we shrink away, then let us cease complaining that someone does not let us draw breath—we do it to ourselves! Let us then cower and hunker down, while our comrades the biologists bring closer the day when our thoughts can be read.

Ensuring Civic Literacy

Civics defined is a social science dealing with the rights and duties of citizens and governments. Civics left untaught prepares the People to be consumers instead of producers; to disengage, by force or choice, from culture and society that serves in favor of that which injures; to be indifferent toward social justice and mobility. 

As it stands now, civics, government and fact-based world history are devoid in curriculums; schools are removing civic engagement goals from mission statements; and less than a quarter of our nation’s high school graduates are at or above proficiency in civics. Disastrously, the measure of these ingredients are the recipe that’s baked up illiteracy in critical skillsets, under-employment and poverty, and mass incarceration. As it stood from birth, I have been set out on this path to join the ranks of families and educators who ensure the civic literacy of future leaders for its value which is second to only that of the ability to read.

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Arden Santana

Arden Santana

Arden has over twenty years of experience in education administration, methodology, and pedagogy. She’s served children, adults and elders across the country through school systems, non-profit organizations, and family-owned and operated counseling and education programs. Arden enjoys reading, creating art with her daughters, hosting guests and loved ones, and traveling.

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