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We had the pleasure of having our own club member, Dr. Peter Sawyer speak to our club about New York State Education Department’s Civic Engagement Task Force. The mission of this Task Force is to:
- Encourage all students to believe in the power of their own voices and actions.
- Equip all students with the skills and knowledge necessary to engage responsibly in our cultural diverse democracy.
- Empower all students to make informed decisions to enhance our interconnected world.
The task force believes that it is the responsibility of NYS Education to provide students with a meaningful high school education, which will prepare them for competitive employment and civic participation. Civics education empowers students to make informed decisions that will create a better future. There is research and evidence that suggest that we are in a national crisis where most Americans are not civically engaged. In the 2014 elections, New York State ranked 47thin the nation in voter turnout at 28.8 percent. (Ref: Your Vote is your Voice, NYSUT.org).
Dr. Sawyer then broke the club into small discussion groups and asked them to discuss what we would like to see from this initiative. It was very thought provoking and fun. Some of the questions he asked the groups to discuss were:
- What must our students be able to do as a Citizen?
- How can school prepare them to fulfill that role as a Citizen?
There were lots of great answers and follow-on discussions. Some of the key takeaways are that informed and trained teachers must teach students about our country’s Political System. They must teach how the process works and how they can become involved in it. Only then, can students become engaged and become a part of the politics in their local community, state and nation. Civics should be included in a curriculum that starts at a young age and builds throughout education from elementary to high school.
We are looking forward to hearing what the Civic Engagement Task Force, of which Dr. Sawyer is a member, learns and hopes to implement for our state and local school’s education of our youth.