How do we ensure every child has a quality civics education? | Michelle Blanchet | 5 Min Read

March 30, 2023

As the government passes an extra $50 million injection to civics education, I wonder how we take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that every student actually receives a quality experience—and that we don’t just repeat what we did before. My fear is that this injection will once again focus (as it has for decades) on the passive teaching of government mechanics and how it functions with little emphasis on the skills needed to help our students be engaged citizens or the conditions teachers need to effectively teach the subject. 

While there seems to be an abundance of dialogue and initiatives around the topic, I can’t help but wonder how we thread some of these ideas together to actually make them a reality in every classroom. Nonprofits and museums have more leeway, but the classroom tends to have limitations. Civics curriculum is often not holistic in its approach to effectively educating students, ignoring some of the ingredients needed to support students as they engage in the subject—emotional intelligence, digital literacy, communication skills, systems thinking, and futures literacy just to name a few. It’s more important than ever that we define what a quality civics education is, and what success might look like, and ask teachers what they need to be successful. 

There was a recent article in The Atlantic titled Why We Need Civics that made me wonder why people would think that civics is an easy topic to teach.  The article claims that a civics course need not be controversial—we simply need to discuss how the government functions and review key documents. As much as I wish that statement might be true, it clearly demonstrates naivete when it comes to teaching our youth about a topic like civics. It seems that many without experience in the classroom seem to be unaware of what teaching civics actually looks like, and the obstacles that hold us back. It’s an alarming reminder that it’s not enough to throw money at the problem—we need to ensure we’re addressing it effectively. 

I’ve taught civics before, starting my career in the political hotbed that is Virginia. As good as it might sound to teach students the basic fundamentals of our government, we need to be honest as to how our government functions. A starting point is certainly the three branches, but one might only scratch the surface to find…

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Michelle Blanchet

Michelle is an educational consultant that infuses startup strategies into professional learning so that teachers are empowered to bring changemaking, social innovation, and SDGs into their work. After teaching social studies in both the U.S. and Switzerland, she founded the Educators’ Lab, which supports teacher-driven solutions to educational challenges. Michelle is the co-author of The Startup Teacher Playbook, and Preventing Polarization (2023). She has worked with organizations like Center for Curriculum Redesign, PBS Education, and Ashoka, and occasionally blogs for Edutopia. A graduate of IE University in Madrid, she is a part of the Global Shaper Community of the World Economic Forum and has presented at numerous events, including SXSWedu and TEDxLausanne. Her focus - helping teachers and students use their agency for social good.