Readers React

Close the 'civic learning opportunity gap'

To the editor: The Times is to be congratulated for its editorial on civic education, which has been woefully neglected in public schools. This has contributed to today's low rates of voter turnout and the public's alienation from the democratic process. ("Citizenship 101: Too many Americans are ignorant of the basics of democracy," Editorial, Dec. 29)

Also of concern is what might be called the "civic learning opportunity gap." Studies reveal that African American, Latino and Native American students receive lower-quality civic education.

As noted in the editorial, researchers have identified a variety of educational practices shown to improve student civic competencies and capacities. They include the opportunities for classroom discussion of important issues, simulations of governmental processes such as legislative hearings or mock trials, and civic-based project learning, in which students apply what they learn in the classroom to tackle and address real public policy issues in their communities.

Students from underserved populations receive far fewer such opportunities than do white, college-bound and upwardly mobile students. It is crucial that all students receive a high-quality civic education to become informed, skilled and engaged participants in civic life. The future of our city, state and nation depend on it.

Marshall Croddy, Los Angeles

The writer is president of the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

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To the editor: A democratic nation ignorant of how democracy functions and how its government is structured will not remain democratic, because the people won't know what is and what isn't supposed to be.

The Civics Education Initiative would require that, in order to graduate high school, seniors must pass the same civics test that immigrants must pass in order to become U.S. citizens. Everyone should support this initiative and see that it becomes law.

John Rossmann, Tustin

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