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Bar News - October 16, 2009

Morning Mail: On Civics Education: Reinventing the Wheel

This letter, published in the Concord Monitor and Union Leader, responds to a Sept. 22 Concord Monitor editorial, "Five civics projects for NH students" and to the efforts of the Civics Education Task Force. Learn more about NHBA’s Law Related Education programs.

As a retired social studies teacher, I am happy to see civics education given some attention recently. However, after reading the task force report and news articles of their meetings, and listening to The Exchange on NHPR, I am afraid they are reinventing the wheel.

The New Hampshire Frameworks are a perfectly good place for teachers and schools to get ideas for goals for civics education. The New Hampshire Bar Association sponsors several excellent civics programs for students from grade 3-4 on, including Project Citizen and We The People. These programs provide free materials, including classroom sets of textbooks for three-grade groupings and professional development opportunities.

Over the years, many good sets of lessons and lesson ideas have been produced, both locally and nationally, and I expect that many are in use in New Hampshire schools.

The ideas expressed in your editorial are all good ones, but with field trip budgets severely reduced and, most important, with No Child Left Behind-driven math and English testing consuming most of the oxygen in classrooms, it is hard to see much blue sky ahead.

Perhaps the new civics task force can have some impact here, but members certainly need to be educated as to what is already available and the real constraints. Social Studies has taken a back seat since No Child Left Behind, and little will change without significant changes in attitude.

Hmmm - maybe it is time for attendance at governmental meetings, writing of letters to decision-makers, and some good old grassroots lobbying! Sounds like a good use of the time of the civics task force.

Art Pease

Art Pease, a former teacher at Lebanon High School, is one of two district coordinators in NH for the We the People program, sponsored in New Hampshire by the NHBA, and funded by the Center for Civic Education.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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