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Maine Citizenship Education Task Force

The Maine Citizenship Task Force responds to the urgent call nationally to reinvigorate among our youth the meaning of American democracy. Although public schools in America were originally created to prepare youth to participate in American democracy, and to become civic leaders, today, many believe this vital core purpose of education has been lost.

Overwhelming evidence suggests this to be true.

  • Almost half (49%) of youth today saying voting is not important (CIRCLE 2002).
  • Voter turnout rates among 18-24 year-olds have dropped by one-third since 1972 (CIRCLE 2002).
  • One-third of high school seniors lack even a basic understanding of how American government works (CIRCLE 2002).

Responding to widespread alarm, Maine's 121st Legislature established the Commission to Study the Scope and Quality of Citizenship Education in November 2003. The Commission issued a final report in February 2004 (PDF, requires Acrobat Reader), which called for the implementation of nine strategies for strengthening citizenship education across Maine.

The recommendations called upon the Maine Department of Education to integrate into schools opportunities for real-life experiences, and for the development of civic participation skills across all content areas of the Maine Learning Results. Additionally, they called for enhanced teacher education and certification processes, the development of best-practice resources, and improved civic learning opportunities in colleges and universities across Maine.

In May 2004, Governor Baldacci signed a legislative resolve to implement the Study Commission's recommendations, thus enacting the Maine Citizen Education Task Force.

Soon thereafter, the Maine Department of Education was awarded a $150,000 two-year grant from the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools to support the work of the Task Force. Under the auspices of the grant, the Task Force is pursuing four interrelated goals:

  • Identify and disseminate exemplary citizenship education programs, curricula, instructional strategies and assessments.
  • Revise the Maine Learning Results in ways that support youth acquiring the knowledge, skills, and predisposition to be civically engaged, and that provide youth with authentic opportunities to participate in the civic and political life of their schools and communities.
  • Build broad public support and involvement for strengthening the civic mission of Maine's schools.
  • Build a sustainable infrastructure within the Maine Department of Education to support exemplary citizenship education across all of Maine schools.

The grant also provides support to the Maine Legislative Youth Advisory Council -- an 18-member youth council with statutory authority to submit legislation to the Maine Legislature.

In addition, although not funded by the grant from the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, the Task Force is focused on strengthening opportunities for civic engagement among students in colleges and universities across Maine -- not only through greater student involvement on campus, but also through service learning and other means that blend classroom learning with civic engagement in local communities.

To accomplish these ambitious goals, the Task Force has established five subcommittees.

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy