February 17, 2021
The following statement was delivered by email on Wednesday, Feb. 17, to members of the House Education Committee during Utah’s 2021 general legislative session. Sutherland Institute Vice President of Government Affairs Stan Rasmussen presented the statement in support of HCR 15 – Concurrent Resolution Emphasizing the Importance of Civics Education.
Members of the House Education Committee,
The major events of the last year – an ongoing pandemic, public health lockdowns, riots in major American cities over racial injustice, and a violent attempt to overturn the results of a presidential election – have illuminated the need for an improved and shared understanding among the public of the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship and how our system of government works. Achieving this goal will require a long-term commitment and Sutherland Institute sees HCR 15 as important step in this effort.
A primary function of public education is to prepare students for citizenship and lifelong civic participation. National data and civil unrest strongly suggest that students in the state of Utah and across the nation are not being adequately prepared for constructive civic participation. Furthermore, the contentious and contemptuous nature of politics has increased the need to prepare students for civil discussion and debate, critical thinking, media literacy, and trust in fundamental civic institutions.
We believe that functional society, grounded in the principles of democracy, will require a focused statewide effort to create accurate, comprehensive and sequential education in American history and civics. As an initial step, HCR 15 will provide an opportunity to holistically assess the status of civic education in Utah, and then make recommendations about needed improvements.
We encourage you to support HCR 15.
Good civics education policy already exists in the law. Let’s look locally to determine how well our schools are teaching what is required of them by law.
The last year has been dominated by concerns about health – not only from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also from the effects on well-being and mental health due to the social isolation the pandemic response has sometimes required.
This latest expression of federalism continues what the data suggest may be a new trend in American governance and civic affairs, illustrating that federalism remains alive and well in America.