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Civics class could be mandatory for high school juniors and seniors

The National Assessment of Educational Progress estimates that approximately 77% of Minnesota students who graduate from high school are not proficient in civics.

For years, Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) has been championing civics education-related initiatives geared toward reversing this trend.

HF562, sponsored by Urdahl, would aim to do that by modifying the social studies graduation requirements to ensure students take civics while in grades 11 or 12. The bill was held over Monday by the House Education Policy Committee for possible omnibus bill inclusion. There is no Senate companion

House panel hears HF562, a bill to modify high school civics requirements 02/22/21

“Civics is in a state of crisis,” he said. “Two-thirds of Americans can name at least one judge on American Idol, 15% can name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”

Currently, students are required to take 3.5 credits of social studies curriculum in order to graduate, encompassing United States history, government and citizenship, geography, world history and economics.

While government and citizenship falls within the required social studies curriculum, there is no assigned credit requirement. Often if students take the course, they take it as freshman when they’re less receptive to the information, Urdahl said.   

“In ninth grade they’re not caring about the three branches of government, they’re not caring about what’s going on in the world of politics because they are years removed from it. It doesn’t mean a lot to them,” he said. “But juniors and seniors are ready to take that next step and to become participating members of our society in terms of voting.”

The bill would require school districts to offer, and students to take and receive credit for, civics curriculum during their junior or senior year as part of their social studies graduation requirements. It would also allow personal finance education to be taken as an alternative to the required economics coursework.

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