Thursday, April 2, 2009

Legislative Updates

There are two bills – one in the Florida legislature, the other in the National Congress – pertaining to our field of Social Studies, more specifically American History and Civics. I would encourage you to take a few moments and visit the sites indicated for further information on the bills.

The Florida Legislature House Bill 13 is in PreK-12 Appropriations Committee. Titled Middle School Civics Education Assessment, this bill “provides requirements for civics education course that student must successfully complete for middle grades promotion beginning with students entering grade 6 in 2011-2012 school; requires administration of end-of-course assessment in civics education as field test at middle school level during 2011-2012 school year; provides requirements for course grade & course credit for subsequent school years; requires inclusion of civics education end-of-course assessment data in determining school grades beginning with 2012-2013 school year." For more information on this bill, or to follow its progress (or lack of it) through this legislative session, click here.

To keep up on a variety of issues in the Florida Legislature that concerns educators, and especially Social Studies instructors, bookmark the FCSS (Florida Council of Social Studies) and FASSS (Florida Association of Social Studies Supervisors) blog.

The US Senate bill S659 - titled Improving the Teaching and Learning of American History and Civics Act of 2009 - was proposed by Senators Kennedy, Byrd, and Alexander, and would consolidate many effective civic and historical programs and allocates funds to strengthen the upcoming 2010 NAEP assessment. It places an emphasis teaching American History and Civics in the public schools, and would seek to provide monies for training of teachers in these areas. For more information on this bill, or to follow its progress (or lack of it) through this legislative session, click here.

For Senator Alexander’s speech concerning this bill and the state of the study of American History and Civics, click here.

Will these bills become law? Hard to tell, with the economic cutbacks we’re facing. Right now it looks like Citrus County will face another five to eight million dollars in cutbacks from the monies received from the state. It is the fourth year in a row Civics-specific legislation has been proposed in the US Congress, and the umpteenth time in a row for the State legislature.

A wonderful book that I think all of our Congressmen should read is It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (written in 1935) in which the country moves into a dictatorship for a variety of reasons. I haven’t read it since before most of you were born (I think it was in 1971) – but it was outstanding. The book serves as a warning that political movements akin to Nazism can come to power in countries such as the United States when people blindly support their leaders – and are unaware of their history or civic responsibilities. For a free online edition, click here.

Essential Question: How can students be encouraged to find and use information on bills that concern their future?

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