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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:
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
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