Aleita Cook, 17, has never taken a class in government, civics or economics. In the two social studies classes she took in her four years at a technical high school in Providence, R.I. — one in American history, the other in world history — she learned mostly about wars, she said.
...“I don’t know what I’m supposed to know,” she said. We’re hoping we win this lawsuit and change it to where my younger brothers can have a really good education, and go into adulthood knowing how to vote, how to do taxes, and learning basic things that you should know going into the real world.”
Left unanswered were many practical questions she had about modern citizenship, from how to vote to “what the point of taxes are.” As for politics, she said, “What is a Democrat, a Republican, an independent? Those things I had to figure out myself.”
…Horace Mann, an early advocate of compulsory public schooling, wrote in 1847 that education’s purpose was to foster “conscientious jurors, true witnesses, incorruptible voters.”
…Beyond civics classes, the suit also argues that the state’s neediest children, particularly Latino immigrants and students with special needs, are failing to acquire the basic academic skills they need to effectively exercise their rights to free speech and voter participation. Among eighth grade English-language learners in 39 states, those in Rhode Island ranked last in math and second to last in reading on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress.
…Fewer than half the states hold schools accountable for teaching civics, according to a review in 2016 by the Education Commission of the States. Only 23 percent of American eighth graders were proficient in civics on the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test that included questions on the Constitution and the roles of the various branches of government.