Civics education bill on Mass. governor’s desk

(Santi Vedrí / Unsplash)

By Prithvi G. Tikhe
Boston University Statehouse Program

This article was originally published in the Telegram.

BOSTON – Civics education in Massachusetts public schools may be heading back to the curriculum after the state legislature approved a measure designed to meet objections from Gov. Charlie Baker that held up efforts to make history and social science more prominent in classrooms.

Last week, lawmakers swiftly approved an amendment offered by Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, designed to address concerns Mr. Baker raised when the bill was initially enacted at the end of July. Mr. Baker now has until Thursday to review the changes incorporated by Ms. Chandler while maintaining what she said is the bill’s original purpose. It was a rare example of lawmakers acting on unanimous approval after the end of formal sessions.

“I am very happy that the final version of our civics legislation has made it to the governor’s desk,” Mrs. Chandler said. “The bill teaches students how to lead and effect real change in their communities.”

The bill, S. 2631, would require Massachusetts public schools to include at least one student-led civics project as part of high school and eighth-grade curriculum and new efforts would be made to register teenagers to vote. Any student who chooses not to participate in a particular group project will have the opportunity to develop an individual civics project, with approval by the principal.

Massachusetts public schools would be required to incorporate American and local history, social science and civics in their curriculum. This would include information on the United States flag, the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, state and federal government, the electoral process, and the role of citizens in a democracy, along with media literacy training.

Mayor Joseph M. Petty of Worcester praised Ms. Chandler’s work on the bill.

“Sen. Chandler deserves a lot of credit for getting this bill over the finish line after many years of advocacy,” he said. “The strength of our public schools is that they make our children into not just fine students, but into good citizens.

“In an age when fiction is sold as fact, it is more important than ever that we are creating students and citizens who can think critically about the civic discourse and their role in society as a whole,” said Mr. Petty, who as mayor is chairman of the Worcester School Committee.

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