In an ironic twist, public school leaders in the nation's capital are considering allowing its high school students to graduate without taking an advanced level course in government functions.
The D.C. State Board of Education has released a proposal that would actually raise the total number of required high school course credits to 26 from 24 -- but where courses and extracurricular allowances like team sports, musical performances and study abroad programs are added, the U.S. government course requirement is removed. The proposal also adds a thesis project provision.
Currently, high schoolers in D.C. Public Schools are required to take at least four social studies courses to graduate, including World History I & II, D.C. History, U.S. Government and U.S. History.
It's unclear why state board officials have suggested dropping U.S. Government as a required course, though civics education advocates aren't happy with the plan, The Washington Post reports. Board President Laura Slover tells the Post that she considers the proposal "open to discussion."
The D.C. proposal comes as studies show that civics education, which includes lessons on citizenship, government, law and current events, is lacking in most school curriculums. A 2012 study by the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning & Engagement at Tufts University found that 39 states require at least one course in U.S. government or civics, but just eight administer standardized statewide tests on the subject.
On the most recent administration of the civics portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2010, just 24 percent of high school seniors proved proficient. Students failed in a number of subject areas, including the U.S. Constitution, civil rights and the court system. Only 7 percent of eighth graders could correctly identify the three branches of government and fewer than half understood the purpose of the Bill of Rights.
"That's pathetic," former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told The Huffington Post when the scores were released in 2011. "The statistics in this latest study confirm that we have a terrible problem on our hands."