Why Utahns may need a refresher course in civics education

Jul 5, 2022, 11:45 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2022, 10:18 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Civic knowledge is alarmingly low in Utah and across the country. Only nine states require a full year of civics or government studies, and 10 states have no requirement at all.

Utah students must pass a basic civics test to receive a high school diploma, but Utah adults earned a letter grade D on civics knowledge, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Department of History and Political Science and Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University.

A second survey looked at how Utah’s kindergarten through high school senior educators teach civics.

“For the last 50 years, we have really emphasized STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math. Social studies have become a little bit of the ugly stepchild,” said Lisa Halverson, civics education fellow at the Center for Constitutional Studies at UVU.

“We discovered that teachers are committed but they lack resources.”

A heated political climate is also having an impact on teachers. Halverson said teachers made comments in the survey that they try to teach the basic standards, but even that can sometimes be controversial. Both surveys were part of the new Civic Thought & Leadership Initiative at UVU’s Center for Constitutional Studies. The legislature created the initiative in 2021 to help solve the problem of the swift decline in civility and civic awareness.

“We believe that civics education isn’t just the factual knowledge, but also the civics skills, the civic dispositions,” Halverson said.

Early initiative efforts with K-12 civics teachers are already producing positive results. So far nearly 200 civics educators have attended. These teachers represent around 20,000 students influenced in one semester.

The goal is to expand those efforts to reach the general public.

“I think what will really save us is when we the people understand the basic principles and ideas that animate our constitutional system, that we take the time to listen carefully and think about what’s going on in politics, rather than just focusing on the headlines and that we actually participate meaningfully in civic life,” said Robert Burton, civic education fellow with the Center for Constitutional Studies.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators reintroduced a bill to improve American students’ understanding of civics and history. It would direct $1 billion in federal investment across five years to school districts, nonprofits and education centers to develop curricula and opportunities throughout K-12 education.

According to The Bipartisan Policy Center While the federal government invests five cents per K-12 student — $4 million total — in civic education, around $54 per K-12 student is invested to support STEM teaching.

Read and watch Part 2 of the “A More Perfect Union” series here.

Woman behind ‘Sharon Says So’ podcast explains how we stop screaming at each other

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

(UDOT Cottonwood Canyons/Twitter)...
Madison Swenson

Ski resorts close as snowstorm slams Utah; Lagoon pushes back opening day

Recent storms have been impacting people all over Utah, leading to the closure of some ski resorts and even delaying sports games.
13 hours ago
Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...
Andrew Adams

Rescuers brace for more snowy weather after dozens of hoists in early 2023

Newly released video documented a hoist rescue in Morgan County earlier in the week as rescuers on Thursday noted an extremely busy winter and expressed concerns about what spring might hold with more snow and wet conditions in the forecast.
13 hours ago
(KSL TV)...
Madison Swenson

Lagoon announces further delay of season opening

For the second time, Lagoon Amusement Park is delaying its opening date due to weather.
13 hours ago
(Salt Lake City Police Department)...
Madison Swenson

Two men with outstanding warrants arrested during SLC traffic stop

Two people were arrested this week after they were found to have outstanding warrants during a traffic stop. One of them also had a gun and illegal drugs on him at the time of the arrest.
13 hours ago
K-9 Zeke is the newest member of the Davis County Sheriff's Office. (Davis County Sheriff's Office/...
Madison Swenson

Davis County Sheriff’s Office welcomes K-9 Zeke to the team

K-9 Zeke is the newest member of the Davis County Sheriff's Office.
13 hours ago
Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...
Karah Brackin

How to prepare for upcoming spring allergy season

If you are sneezing and wheezing, you are not alone. Spring allergy season is on its way. Here's how you can prepare for it.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...
PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Close up of an offset printing machine during production...
Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.
vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
Why Utahns may need a refresher course in civics education