Legislation enacts a hands-on and experiential approach to fostering civic engagement
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature this week sent S.2631, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk for his signature. The bill incorporates project-based learning components, encourages the instruction of civic competencies – including news and media literacy – and provides extracurricular civic-participation opportunities.
“Civics education is fundamental to an informed citizenry and a sustained democracy,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), a co-sponsor of civics education legislation and who voted for this bill when it first passed the Senate on March 22nd of this year. “In this age of unprecedented misinformation, teaching youth about how our government works and how to consume news with a critical lens will empower our future generation of leaders and change makers.”
The bill mandates that public schools include the following subjects in civics education:
- The Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights.
- The Declaration of Independence.
- The constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- Local history and government.
- The function and composition of the branches of local, state and federal government.
- The roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy.
- A program relating to the flag of the United States of America including, but not limited to, proper etiquette and the correct use and display of the flag, the importance of participation in the electoral process.
- The development of skills to access, analyze and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics.
- The importance of participation in the electoral process.
- Community diversity and historical trends in voter registration and civic participation relative to disenfranchised voter populations.
- Opportunities to identify and debate issues relative to power, economic status and the common good in democracy.
The implementation of the curriculum is made possible by the Civics Project Trust Fund, which will provide funding for professional development and for the further development of curriculum frameworks.
The bill also mandates that the Secretary of State, the Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education create a non-partisan voter challenge program to encourage eligible students to participate in all municipal and state elections. Participation in the program is voluntary.
If signed into law by the Governor, the new law would take effect for the 2022-2023 academic year.