Parents Must Be Role Models In Our Democracy

Parents play an essential role in helping children participate in our democracy. A new report, "Fault Lines in Our Democracy," discusses this and other issues.


Fault Lines in Our Democracy, a recent study from Educational Testing Service, shows that “weak civics knowledge among young people is linked to less voting, less volunteering and greater distrust in government.”

For those who are civics challenged, this has nothing to do with whether you drive a Honda or whether you get lost on your way to the polls.

It is about our democracy and how we participate in important decisions. And it also is about how we educate our children.

Before I tell you how well our kids did on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in civics, let’s see how well you do.

Below are some of the issues our students were asked to know:

  1. What is the main source of government funding?
  2. What is the purpose of the constitution?
  3. Identify a right protected by the first amendment.
  4. What is the role of the Supreme Court?
  5. Identify the meaning of a Supreme Court decision
  6. Identify the effect of foreign policy on other nations.

Piece of cake?  Not so much?

The questions above that are in bold italics are the Piece of Cake questions. If you got those right, you hit “basic” knowledge.

To be proficient, a 4th grader should know the purpose of the constitution, an eighth grader should know the role of the supreme court and a 12th grader should know the effect of foreign policy on other nations. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics, The Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2010 (NCES 2011-466), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2011)

Did you beat the kids?

According to the report, only 27 percent of fourth graders, 22 percent of eighth graders and 24 percent of 12th graders were proficient on the 2010 NAEP assessment.

The report also found that if you are young, less educated and in a lower-income group, you are less likely to vote.

These findings have big implications for our democracy and for how we make decisions about the future of our state and our nation.

So what can we do?   Parents can be role models.

The report found:

“Parents… can boost the civic participation of their children. In fact, recent analysis by the Center for Labor Market Studies has shown that the home may be a much more important influence than the schools. In the 2010 election, 18- to 19-year-olds were much more likely to vote if a parent voted (32 percent versus 4 percent). This large difference held across both gender and racial/ethnic groups. These data support the notion that good civic behavior is learned in the home, as well as in school.”

Here are some suggestions:

  • Register to vote. here for information on how to do this.
  • Find out how your local school supports civics education.
  • Support community efforts to register and encourage eligible young people to vote.

California State PTA believes civics learning should be a priority in school reform.

We helped write Proposition 38 on the ballot in November to support a comprehensive education for all our children. This specifically supports funding for civics and history in our schools.

You can find more resources to support civics education on the California State PTA website. With an important election coming up, we encourage you to use these resources in your school and community, including MY VOTE.

Carol Kocivar is the president of the California Parent Teacher Association.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Albert Rubio September 16, 2012 at 09:09 PM
What is the official answer to "What is the purpose of the constitution?"
Albert Rubio September 18, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Somehow I don't think the Answer to the purpose of the Constitution will include this, so it is a worthy reminder on Constitution Day! ‎"...it cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals—that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government—that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens’ protection against the government." Ayn Rand | The Virtue of Selfishness Happy Constitution Day!
Albert Rubio September 18, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Constitution Day Commentary: The Anti-Federalists Were Right "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." ~ James Madison, Federalist No. 45 "History has shown this statement to be either wishful thinking or a deliberate falsehood. Regardless of which opinion you hold, the Anti-Federalists were right. They correctly predicted the unlimited power of a consolidated government under the Constitution. Not only were the Anti-Federalists right to a degree that they could never have imagined" http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance106.html
Albert Rubio September 18, 2012 at 06:55 AM
Carol Kocivar, Do you have a link to the answers? I was going in circles trying to find an answer key. thanks
Albert Rubio September 18, 2012 at 07:26 AM
i should point out that there is a very real danger to society for the government to be in the business of giving compulsory instruction to young impressionable minds about the nature and purpose of government. This is a serious problem for the compulsory government school model.


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