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Updated 09/13/06...wl

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The Maine Citizenship Education Task Force

Public schools in America were originally created to prepare young people to participate in American democracy and to become civic leaders. Forty state constitutions mention the importance civic literacy among its citizens, with thirteen of these stating that the central purpose of public education is to promote citizenship, democracy, and free government.

Today, many believe this core purpose of education in America has been lost. School-based civic education is in decline. Overwhelming evidence suggests that young Americans today are disengaged from civic and political institutions and activities, and when this happens the community's collective energy is diminished:

  • Under 20 percent of eligible 18 to 25-year-olds voted in the 2004 presidential election (Restoring the Balance Between Academics and Civic Engagement in Public Schools , NCSS 2005)
  • Another recent survey of 1,500 college students indicated that young people are reluctant to participate in public life, even though the events of September 11, 2001, might have stirred the embers of patriotism and heightened a sense of community responsibility. (Restoring the Balance Between Academics and Civic Engagement in Public Schools , NCSS 2005)

Widespread alarm at these trends has resulted in a national call to reinvigorate among our young the meaning of American democracy. Moreover, many have concluded that public schools are a key venue for meeting this challenge because they are the only institution with the capacity and mandate to reach nearly every young person in America. If we do not plan now to prepare our youth to take on the mantle of citizenship, we leave the future of democracy hanging in the balance.

To that end, Resolve 2003, Chapter 85, enacted by the 121st Maine Legislature, authorized the formation of the Commission to Study the Scope and Quality of Citizenship Education in Maine. The Commission began its work in November 2003, and issued a final report with nine recommendations in February 2004.

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

In May 2004, Governor Baldacci signed the legislative "Resolve to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission to Study the Scope and Quality of Citizenship Education," thus enacting the Maine Citizenship Education Task Force-a powerful, statewide coalition of individuals and organizations committed to promoting and strengthening citizenship education across Maine.

Shortly thereafter, Maine was one of six states nationally to be awarded a $150,000 two-year grant from the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a national partnership funded by the Carnegie Corporation and Knight Foundation. Administered by the Maine Department of Education, the grant has fueled a dynamic, "on-the-ground" effort to reach all schools and communities in Maine with a core message aimed at renewing and restoring the core purpose of education, that of preparing young people to be informed and active citizens.

The Maine Citizenship Education Task Force is guided by the belief that it is necessary, but not sufficient, to acquire knowledge through the study of history and government. Equally vital are building effective skills to act on civic knowledge, developing attitudes and beliefs that provide a personal context supportive of civic engagement, and having authentic opportunities to participate in the civic and political life of one's community.

Task Force Members

 

Max Adams, Kennebunk High School
Pamela Anderson, UMaine School of Law
Nelson Beaudoin, Kennebunk High School
Deborah Bicknell, Maine Youth Action Network
Representative Stephen Bowen
Steve Bromage, Maine Historical Society
James Carignan, State Board of Education
Amanda Coffin, University of Maine at Farmington
Susan Corrente, Maine Department of Education
Representative Glenn Cummings
Representative Gerald Davis
Dale Douglass, Maine School Management
Senator Neira Douglass
Doug Dunbar, Office of Secretary of State
Becky Dyer, Maine Department of Education
Ian Engdahl, Legislative Youth Advisory Council
Angela Faherty, Maine Department of Education
Suzanne Goucher, Maine Association of Broadcasters
Arnold Greenburg, The Liberty School
Thomas Harnett, Office of the Attorney General
Charlie Hartman, Maine Department of Education
Judith Harvey, SAD # 50
Tamara Heligman, Maine Campus Compact
Kathryn Hunt, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center
Erik Jorgensen, Maine Humanities Council
Barabara Kaufman, KIDS Consortium
Ann Luther, League of Women Voters
Richard Lyons, SAD #22
Connie Manter, CISE Consultant and MDOE Regional Education Services Team
Senator Arthur Mayo
Liz McCabe Park, Maine Campus Compact
Phillip McCarthy, Office of Policy and Legal Analysis
Dara McIntire, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center
Senator Betty Lou Mitchell
Alice Olson, Winthrop Elementary School
Patrick Phillips, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools
Colleen Quint, Senator George Mitchell Institute
Sarah Redfield, Franklin Pierce Law Center
David Richards, Margaret Chase Smith Library
Fran Rudoff, KIDS Consortium
Kerry Salvo, KIDS Consortium
Susan Savell, Communities for Children and Youth
Ted Sharp, Gorham School Department
Maureen Smith, University of Maine
Myrian Smith, Kennebunk High School
Stacy Smith, Bates College
Maureen Smith, UMaine
Kit St. John, Maine Center for Economic Policy
Michael Starn, Maine Municipal Association
Senator Ethan Strimling
Peter Taylor, Maine Community Foundation
Jen Thompson, Legislative Youth Advisory Council
Representative David Trahan
Julia Underwood, UMaine School of Law
Sam Underwood, Casco Bay High School
Crystal Ward, Lewiston High School
Bob Woodbury, Maine Community Foundation

 

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy