Civics education data: Where parents and teachers agree

June 17, 2021

Politics can often feel like a battle of us versus them. But every now and again, it becomes apparent that multiple groups are on the same page, even if it is for different reasons.

New education survey data released by Sutherland Institute show that while parents may not always have a high opinion about curriculum, Utah parents have a high opinion of their kids’ teachers. Even better, parents and teacher share many opinions when it comes to civics education and how to improve it.

Take a look below for more information on where parents and teachers find common ground.

Both teachers and parents believe teaching civics education is a high priority but say schools are not doing well in providing that education. Not surprisingly, a supermajority of teachers and parents seek to restore “a robust civics education in our public schools.”

Knowing that both parents and teachers place priority on civics education suggests a way forward. When the two groups of people closest to the needs of students – parents and teachers – also happen to be the two of the most powerful stakeholders in education, progress can be made. Together, they can powerfully advocate in their school, local school boards, state school board, and state Legislature that civics education no longer be treated as a back-burner issue. Real change can happen if instead they join together to ask that it be a given the instruction time it deserves and teachers the training and resources they need to accomplish that.

A majority of both teachers and parents link current societal unrest to the idea that students and society no longer possess the fundamental principles of good citizenship. Teachers and parents both consider civics and history as “essential” to understanding what is happening in our country as well as how to move forward. 

It’s worth noting that parents and teachers both say civics education, or the lack of it, is at the heart of recent societal breakdowns. Whether or not (or how) these might be connected, the perception exists – meaning that parents and teachers are likely to press for changes in the policymaking world until society is able to “move forward” in some meaningful ways: fewer incidents of violence related to political issues, more civility, increased trust in our institutions and voting system, etc.

Both teachers and parents agree that the top three most important skills that graduates should have are: critical thinking, open-mindedness/acceptance, and responsibilities of being a citizen.

Parents and teachers also share a vision of what a good education ought to include. Above just academics, parents and teachers both hope that students will learn critical thinking, open-mindedness, and acceptance, as well as responsibilities of being a citizen. These are clearly lifelong skills that both parents and teachers ought to be teaching in their respective spheres. Although there are so many controversies about what ought or ought not to be brought into the classroom, there is general consensus around these, and that creates a great place to start for parent/teacher discussions and policymaking reforms.

Both teachers and parents believe civics education should: begin in elementary school, last through high school, and be integrated into all disciplines/subject matter.

From the broader perspective of the public education system, parents and teachers find more agreement. High school definitely includes stronger civics standards than elementary school, and apparently both groups believe younger grades need to be introduced to these concepts as well. Civics, they believe, needs to be integrated into all subject matter. The good news is that’s already required by Utah statute. The bad news is it’s not really enforced. With combined effort, parents and educators may be able to make this a reality.

This kind of broad consensus is an important ingredient for civics reform in the state. We should be encouraged by this and be emboldened to lean forward toward meaningful change.

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