5 Resources for Investing in Civics Education

Civic education is crucial for today’s high schoolers, but many students, especially those from communities…

By Hana Beach

Civic education is crucial for today’s high schoolers, but many students, especially those from communities of color, low-income communities, and rural ones, lack access. With ARP ESSER Funds, we have the chance to change this reality and invest in civic education to empower all students. Explore this week’s resources to dream big about how civics education can transform your classroom. Let’s get to work!

The phrase “civics education” might make you think of history or social studies, but civics doesn’t need to stop there! Good civics education is as much about how students learn as it is about content. 

Why It Matters: Researchers from Stanford coined the phrase quantitative civic reasoning to describe how skills learned in math and language arts can support youth voice and participation—key parts of civics engagement. Incorporate civics in every class by teaching these skills:

  • Awareness of audience when presenting ideas or information
  • Student choice and self-directed learning
  • Research and data-collection
  • Learning from peers

Extra Credit: The need for civic education in 21st-century schools

Students learn best when the material is relevant to their lives. What could be more relevant than a civics education that gets students involved with issues close to their hearts? 

Why It Matters: Connect classroom learning with what’s happening in your students’ lives and communities, and challenge students to put what they’ve learned in class into real-world action. For inspiration, check out these examples from EdWeek, including:

Extra Credit: The Importance of Civics Education in this National Moment

As much as civics education is about the present and future—how do we create a world where we want to live—it’s also about understanding the past, and the histories that shape who we are today.

Why It Matters: Guide students in an active approach to history with these resources from The Zinn Education Project. When we encourage students to ask critical questions of history and society, we show them that their voices matter. Spark active learning with questions like:

  • Whose voices are being heard? Whose perspective is left out?
  • How is power working in this story?
  • What does this history have to say about who we are today?

Extra Credit: At Texas Boys State, the Kids, In Fact, Are Not Alright

Civics education can empower students with the skills, self-confidence, and resources to address inequity. First, though, we have to ensure equity in civics education itself.

Why It Matters: Civics education is in high demand all across the country, but access and quality of education is far from equal. Many students, particularly in underserved communities, either don’t have civics education, or learn from a curriculum that is outdated and not representative of students’ lived experiences. With ARP funding, we can advance equity through:

  • Supporting BIPOC civics educators
  • Creating a culturally responsive classroom 
  • Pairing civics education with robust social and emotional learning to support overall student well-being

Extra Credit: Are Civics Lessons a Constitutional Right? This Student Is Suing for Them

Are you fired up about civics education, but unsure where to start? This section is for you!

Why It Matters: With ARP funding available, there is no better time than now to make a big investment in civics education in your classroom and school. A social studies teacher in California put together this practical guide with resources to help educators build civics programs at their schools, including:

  • How to build investment from administration and school stakeholders
  • How to recruit community support
  • Incentives for students and teachers to get involved
  • National civics programs for students

Extra Credit: Civics Education Is Essential for Creating Engaged Citizens. I’m Hopeful It’s About to Make a Comeback.

Want to learn more about how the American Rescue Plan can impact high schools across the country? Want to know what this funding means, how much money is coming to your state, and how you can get involved and participate in rethinking high school? 

Check out XQ’s hub on all things ARP at Choose High School Now.