Survey results suggest civics is a priority to Utah communities of color

Written by Derek Monson

July 15, 2021

A recently released opinion survey of parents and teachers in Utah found broad support for civics education reform that prioritizes civics and history education on par with math and language arts. But is that also true for Utah’s communities of color?

Digging deeper into the data from the survey, which was commissioned by Sutherland Institute, the answer appears to be “yes.”

Unfortunately, due to small sample sizes, not much can be said with confidence regarding the specific opinions of Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander or multiracial Utahns. However, we can draw some insights on the opinions of Utah’s communities of color as a whole, with the understanding that each of these communities is likely to contain a diversity of opinions and views.

Respondents were asked to assign points to various school subjects based on how important they were to the person taking the survey. Nonwhite survey respondents scored civics second in priority, trailing only math, and ahead of English, life skills and science. For comparison, the entire survey sample prioritized civics third, behind both math and English. A full 68% of nonwhite survey respondents said that the statement “now more than ever, students need to learn the principles of good citizenship” matches or largely matches their personal view.

But the survey data suggest that most members of Utah’s communities of color are not seeing schools prioritize civics accordingly. According to our survey, 36% believe schools prioritize civics as one of the most important subjects, while 47% believe it is treated as important but not as high a priority as subjects like math and science, and 17% believe civics is treated as more of an afterthought relative to highly prioritized school subjects.

What do individuals in Utah’s communities of color see as the most important topics for civics education in Utah schools? Law and individual rights were considered important by 54% of nonwhite survey respondents, followed by open-mindedness to different ideas and values at 41%. Seven other topics got support in the 33%-34% range, followed by topics such as the history behind the U.S. system of government (26%) and antiracism (25%), with topics like activism (9%) getting the least support.

This is just one opinion survey, and further research should be done to confirm what members of specific communities of color believe about the importance of civics education in Utah and what civics should include. However, to whatever extent Sutherland’s civics survey can offer useful insights into what members of Utah’s communities of color think about these subjects, it is that they: (1) believe civics education to be one of the most important school subjects, (2) do not see school prioritization of subjects reflecting their prioritization of civics, and (3) deem the law and individual rights, as well as open-mindedness to different ideas and values, as the most important elements of civic education.

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