State governments should play a far stronger role than the federal government in setting civics curricula. Even here, however, civics reformers should be cautious. Radical policymakers can impose action civics on school districts by state legislation—and even well-intentioned civics legislation can have its intent perverted by radical activists in state education departments and local school districts. Civics reformers should consider the local circumstances in each state carefully as they proceed. Policymakers should be informed that civics legislation should be carefully scrutinized, to make sure it does not provide unintentional support for action civics.
Civics reformers therefore should carefully examine our own model bills and issue briefs. They should be scrutinized to ensure they allow no loopholes for action civics.
Proposed State Legislation
Remove Action Civics from K-12 Education
The Partisanship Out of Civics Act (POCA) rescues public K-12 civics education from its takeover by radical activists. Radical activists seek to transform all education into political activism to advance “social justice.” Their favored pedagogy is “service-learning,” and they particularly focus on using civics education as a Trojan horse for their revolutionary project, by turning civics education, under names such as action civics, new civics, civic engagement, project-based civics, and global civics, into radical propaganda and vocational training for social justice activism. The Act prevents teachers from giving credit to service-learning or any other sort of public policy advocacy in history, government, civics, or social studies. It also bars civics classes from using the discriminatory ideology at the heart of Critical Race Theory.
The Classroom Teaching Act (CTA) eliminates service-learning pedagogy from public K-12 schools—and from any tax-supported activity. CTA bars funding any “Service-learning,” “Service-learning Coordinator,” or “Service Sponsor,” as defined by the federal legislation that authorizes federal expenditures for these three items. The CTA uses the federal definition partly because it provides a clear, legally enforceable definition and partly because it gives states a tailored means to bar all federally funded service-learning within their borders.
Establish Mandatory Civics Literacy Assessment
The Civics Literacy Act (CLA) requires high school students, as a condition of graduation, to pass the U.S. Civics Test given to immigrants who wish to be naturalized. The CLA, by requiring K-12 civics education to include a core of factual knowledge, prevents state education bureaucrats from drafting curricula and standards that replace factual knowledge with social justice propaganda and/or action civics. The CLA’s reliance on the U.S. Civics Test as the basis of that factual knowledge also prevents state education bureaucrats from defining that core of factual knowledge. The CLA defends K-12 curricula from complete takeover by action civics, but it will not by itself guarantee that high school students learn enough about their country’s history and government. It should form the foundation of thorough instruction in civics.
Establish K-12 Civics Course
The Civics Course Act (CCA) establishes a K-12 civics course. Advocates of traditional civics must be careful about whether to push for a required civics course, since a loosely worded law might end up supporting action civics. Traditional civics proponents may prefer local decisions about civics courses to any state-mandated civics course. If traditional civics proponents do support a state-mandated civics course, it should be crafted so as to teach traditional civics and to avoid capture by action civics. The CCA delegates the mandate to create a civics curriculum to each school district rather than to the state education department. The CCA also includes mandates to study the documents of American history, which is harder for action civics proponents to subvert. Finally, the CCA duplicates much of the language of the Partisanship Out of Civics Act (POCA), to provide an explicit ban on service-learning and advocacy.
Establish Required Undergraduate American History and Government Course
The American History Act (AHA) adds an American History and Government general education requirement to public universities. We provide two versions of the AHA. The first, modeled on existing requirements in 8 states, requires only one course (3 credits) in American History and American Government. The second, modeled on existing requirements in Texas, requires four courses (12 credits). Both versions include syllabus transparency requirements, so that state policymakers, the public, and students all can see how well individual classes fulfill the legal requirement to teach American History and American Government.
Civics education reform requires further detailed reform, for which we have not yet provided model legislation. Some of these reforms in any case require detailed administrative codification and cannot be spelled out fully in state legislation. We provide these strategic goals to provide general guidance for civics education reform on the state level.
Reform State Social Studies and Civics Standards
Many state education departments set statewide K-12 social studies and civics standards. These standards frequently steer these classes toward radical interpretations of American history and government and toward action civics. State legislators should establish procedures by which to reform statewide K-12 social studies and civics standards and ensure that they provide a framework of proper civics instruction.
Keep Action Civics Out of Advanced Placement Classes
The College Board’s AP United States Government and Politics Advanced Placement Examination now asks students to complete a Project Requirement of action civics. States should pass legislation that ensures that no high school class may teach an Advanced Placement class that requires service-learning, civic engagement, action civics, or any cognate activity; that no state money may fund taking advanced placement tests that require action civics; and that no public university may give credit to courses that include service-learning, civic engagement, action civics, or any cognate activity.
Use Dual-Course Credit and Core Transfer Curricula to Forward Civics Reform
Many states allow high school students to take courses for college credits, either as dual courses taught in public K-12 schools or as dual credit courses in community colleges. State legislators should make sure that every American History and Government course added to the public university General Education Requirements are also available as dual credit courses and integrated into the Core Transfer Curricula. State legislators should ensure that the courses possess rigorous standards, forbid action civics or activism, and have transparent syllabi. They should also establish mutual recognition between states of rigorous dual-course American History and Government courses, so that students in one state will be able to apply American History and Government course credits to public universities in another state.
Require Civics Literacy Tests for College Students
States should extend civics literacy assessments to the undergraduate level. States should require all incoming students at public universities to pass a civics literacy test, for which a passing grade on the high school civics literacy test can substitute. Students who have not passed that test must take a remedial civics literacy course; they still must pass the civics literacy test before graduation. Each state should also require all graduating students at public universities to take a more rigorous civics literacy test, not least to ensure that the higher education establishment provides its students rigorous American History and Government courses.
Reform General Education Requirements
Universities have been adding general education requirements such as Civic Engagement, Diversity or Social Justice, which require students to study action civics and radical propaganda. These requirements force students to pay the salaries of social justice advocates and make it impossible for students to avoid their courses. States should limit total General Education Requirements to 40 credit hours, include American History and Government among the General Education Requirements, and establish a comprehensive list of General Education Requirements that includes no action civics, no activism, no Critical Race Theory, and no propaganda requirements such as Diversity or Social Justice. States should also prohibit maneuvers such as allowing a course to satisfy both a Social Sciences and a Diversity requirement, since this effectively substitutes the Diversity requirement for the Social Sciences requirement.
Establish a School of Intellectual Freedom
States should require their flagship public universities to establish autonomous, stand-alone Schools of Intellectual Freedom, dedicated to intellectual freedom, the Western Heritage, and the American Heritage, directly funded by state legislature appropriations. The School would house undergraduate and graduate programs in Western Heritage and American Heritage. This School would break the progressive monopoly on higher education and provide courses on American History and Government both for undergraduates and for teachers seeking licensure.
Reform Teaching Licensure
Education schools abuse their monopoly on teaching licensure to train teachers to teach social justice propaganda and action civics. States should establish teaching licensure pathways that allow teachers to avoid education schools and that establish a preference for subject-matter specialists over education majors. States should also require teachers in state public schools who teach English or Social Studies to pass six (6) survey courses in Western Heritage, American History, and American Government. These courses should include no action civics or activism. The state should pass further detailed requirements to ensure that radical activists cannot subvert the intent of this teaching licensure reform.
State Public Information Toolkit
Civics reformers should use the State Public Information toolkit to learn how to inform policymakers and fellow constituents about action civics and proper civics education.