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Every School Needs A Balanced Curriculum

December 18, 2014

There is much to be said for the current push for Science, Technology, English and Mathematics (STEM). Some educators are calling for the addition of “Arts” and renaming it STEAM. I propose that we need to add “Civics” to our high school curriculum. The program could then be called Science, English, Civics, Mathematics, Arts and Technology, or SECMAT. The rationale for the listing is simple; if you have a foundation in Science, English, Civics and Mathematics you have a foundation for Arts and Technology.
At the present time, arts are either missing or under funded by the School District, State Legislators and Governor. The only arts program that stands a chance against the sports programs is a music department and in some of our schools that only supports sporting events.
Earlier this month, Education Week reported, “Though the arts receive relatively little attention from policymakers and school leaders, exposing young people to art and culture can have a big impact on their development. The problem is that too few are bothering to study and document the extent to which the arts and culture can affect students. Instead, policymakers, researchers and schools are typically focused on what is regularly and easily measured: math and reading achievement.”
The multiple studies Education Week pursued on the importance of art and culture experiences were conducted under what is typical of medical studies. This type of study creates treatment and control groups that are on average identical in their background and prior interests. One facet of the study was whether art experiences had an effect on student values such as tolerance and empathy.
Through their studies they found that art does have an effect on the values of young people. They become more tolerant and empathetic. The study further shows, “Art experiences boost critical thinking, teaching students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world.” The authors of the article went on to say, “These improved outcomes may not boost scores on math and reading tests, but most parents, communities and educators care about them. We don’t just want our students to learn vocationally useful skills in math and reading.”
That Civics should be returned to the classroom as a required credit for graduation from high school is evident in the lack of civic interest and knowledge shown by the millennials. While a minimal social studies program is evidenced, the lack of participation by all citizens shows that more needs to be done.
Peter Levine, the Director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) reported, “In 2010, just 24% of 12th graders scored at or above the proficient level in the national Civics assessment.”
In 2014, CIRCLE conducted a study nationwide of voters between ages 18 to 29. The study showed that less than half of those contacted voted in the 2010 midterms. The two reasons for not voting were “they didn’t think their vote counted” or “they just weren’t interested.”
A Xavier University’s National Civics Literacy Survey showed that one in three natural-born Americans could not pass a citizenship test while 97.5% of hopeful emigrants passed the exam on the first try.
To its credit, Oklahoma has signed on to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s Civics Education Initiative after a study found that less than 4% of this state’s students could pass a citizenship test!

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