ST. PAUL – State Rep. Dean Urdahl’s latest bill to restore civics as a priority in Minnesota schools cleared its first House committee hurdle on Monday.
The Acton Township Republican has authored H.F. 562, legislation Urdahl said raises the relevance of civics in Minnesota schools by making it a credit-bearing subject for high school juniors or seniors. It was heard Monday by the House Education Policy Committee and remains in the mix for passage this session.
Urdahl said a National Association of Education Progress report shows students’ civics knowledge flatlines in middle school and, ultimately, seniors graduate with a mere 25-percent proficiency on the subject.
“What we are doing now, in light of the woeful success rate, just isn’t working,” Urdahl said. “We need to change the way we teach civics in our schools because, when taught effectively, civics can equip students with the knowledge and dispositions necessary to become informed and engaged citizens.”
Urdahl taught social studies and civics for 35 years in the New London-Spicer district. This bill is the latest in a series of proposals he has authored to place renewed emphasis on this subject. Urdahl said civics’ classroom prominence has been diminished in recent years as science, technology, engineering and mathematics gained priority.
“It goes without saying STEM courses are very important to our children’s education,” Urdahl said. “The unfortunate thing is the focus on STEM has come at the expense of civics and we need to strike a better balance. We owe it to our children to do so.”
Minnesota currently requires 3.5 credits of social studies, encompassing at least United States history, geography, government and citizenship, world history and economics to satisfy the academic standards.
“Civics is supposed to be taught in Minnesota,” Urdahl said. “But we can’t guarantee that it is being taught because there is no assigned credit requirement to teach civics in Minnesota. I would suggest, with three out of four high school graduates lacking proficiency in civics, that we aren’t teaching it well enough. My bill would help in that regard.”