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California task force warns of civics education crisis

A view of the US Capitol on January 27, 2014 in Washington.
A view of the US Capitol on January 27, 2014 in Washington.

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The California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning is warning of a crisis in civic participation that starts in the schools. The group has drafted a list of recommended fixes, but to finish the report the group is practicing what it preaches and is asking for civic participation.

The task force, formed last summer by the state's chief justice and superintendent of schools, found fewer than half of California high school seniors believe it’s their responsibility to be involved in state and local issues. The same proportion of eligible young voters nationwide failed to cast ballots in the 2012 elections.

The group recommends public schools ramp up lessons – starting in Kindergarten - about people’s rights and duties in society, combined with testing on that knowledge.

“Today’s students are the future of California, and if they grow up with strong civic learning, they grow up with an appreciation—and ability—for civic engagement,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a written statement.

Other recommendations include recognizing students, teachers, and administrators who find ways to make civics learning fun and engaging and involving businesses, community organizations, and families in school lessons.

The group also recommends public and private funding for civics learning.

The task force will host seven meetings across California in the next few months to collect suggestions from the public on how to improve civics lessons. The first meeting is in Downey Friday at the Los Angeles County Office of Education.