Start an educational program to increase youth leadership and civic participation
New Jersey has adopted social studies standards requiring students to acquire the skills needed to be active and informed citizens who will work collaboratively to address today’s challenges. The value of citizen participation and the ability to apply the knowledge of how government works is most readily accessed at the municipal level. Power Civics for high school is an educational program designed to increase youth civic participation and leadership. It develops students’ knowledge of local government and empowers them to be more informed and active citizens at a young age.
Use the following materials to advance this solution in your city:
Advisory Policy Memo Re: Power Civics Component
The Citizens Campaign’s Power Civics component, developed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, focuses on local government and civic leadership. In order to have a healthy democracy, citizens must be active and informed. Pursuant to this belief, New Jersey State Board of Education adopted requirements that high school social studies curriculum teach students to be active and informed citizens. The Citizens Campaign has developed a comprehensive curriculum component that school districts can feel comfortable adopting, in whole or in part. Adopting the Citizens Campaign’s Power Civics is, therefore, an excellent way to address a void in our youth’s education.
Democracy works to its best capabilities when its citizenry is active and informed. When citizens are empowered to take part in their local policy-making institutions they can affect the direction of their communities. Today, however, citizens are increasingly less informed about their rights and abilities to affect the decisions of these institutions. When less people are involved in local policy making, it becomes more difficult to develop innovative policies that benefit the community as a whole. Therefore, it is important to teach citizens about their local institutions – especially when they are turning 18 and on the cusp of being able to exercise in full their citizen powers.
The Citizens Campaign has developed an effective and comprehensive component that schools may adopt, in whole or in part. In partnership with University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, The Citizens Campaign developed a program that covers the structure of local government entities, and opportunities for civic leadership. By adopting Power Civics, school districts can provide effective civic instruction to their students. Power Civics has been adopted in several school districts, and has been proven to be an effective tool for civic instruction. Power Civics also includes supplemental materials that will enhance a student’s learning experience.
MODEL RESOLUTION FOR ADOPTION OF POWER CIVICS
WHEREAS, Board of Education of (name of municipality/region) recognizes, that “all students should acquire the skills needed to be active, informed citizens”; and
WHEREAS, the value of citizen participation and the ability to apply the knowledge of how government works is most readily accessed at the municipal level; and
WHEREAS, to achieve the goal of involvement in our local government students need a Leadership Civics education consisting of instruction and service-learning projects in the following areas:
1. The “Power Centers” of Local Government & Politics. Students should receive instruction on the structure, functions and operation of the main power centers of municipal government: the governing body (mayor and council), the school board, and the planning board, as well as the local political parties. Students should also be given opportunities for constructive participation with governmental and political entities.
2. Legal Rights with Respect to Local “Power Centers.” Students should receive education about their legal rights for engaging in local decision making. More specifically, students should receive instruction on two key principles: the right to government records and information and the right to be heard (for example, making a constructive proposal to a local board). Students should also be given opportunities to use this knowledge to explore the various avenues for accessing their local government.
3. Techniques for Positive Civic Leadership. The following techniques and skills should be emphasized: (1) how to initiate contact and develop helpful and constructive relationships with local governmental and political officials, (2) how to develop a sound, responsible proposal to present to a local governmental and political body, (3) how to make an effective, respectful presentation to a local governmental or political body; and
WHEREAS, this type of “Leadership” civics education will not only motivate and encourage students to take a more active role in local government and politics, but will also empower them with the knowledge and skills to participate in government and politics at all levels.
THEREFORE, be it resolved, that the (name of municipality/regional) Board of Education, in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Education’s call for students to become active and informed citizens, decides to integrate the above described “Leadership” policy into high school civics education offerings.