Different Understandings of Civic Education

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State Representative Brian Newberry (R, North Smithfield, Burrillville) has submitted legislation to require Rhode Island schools to teach students about the founding documents of the United States, and I’m not sure Providence Journal reporter Linda Borg quite understands the difference between that proposal and this:

Generation Citizen goes into the classroom and provides students with a hands-on civics project. Last semester, a group of Providence students studied community-police relations and lobbied for the community safety act, meeting with the City Council and others.

“Our young people don’t see politics and government as a path to real change,” [Generation Citizen Providence lead Tom] Kerr-Vanderslice said. “If we provide local, project-based civics education, they start to see politics as a pathway to making an impact.”

Newberry’s objective (I infer) is to educate students on the structure and boundaries of government.  Understanding our founding documents is understanding the agreement we have made with each other about what we can and can’t use the force of government to do.  Generation Citizen is teaching students how to be activists (generally left-wing activists, by the looks of it).

Those are very different lessons — in some ways opposing and in some ways complementary.  Borg’s article, however, tells the reader almost nothing about Newberry’s perspective with his legislation.  Rather, his bill is mainly a framework in which to present Kerr-Vanderslice’s perspective.

In that regard, the article presents an excellent illustration of the dangers of the progressive mentality.  What is important, under its sway, is for people to learn how to leverage government (implicitly serving the interests of people who deify it), not for them to understand people’s right to live independently from government.  The message being taught is: If you want something, go get government to force people to give it to you at the point of a gun.



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