State governments should play a far stronger role than the federal government in setting civics curricula. Even here, however, civics reformers should be cautious. Radical policymakers can impose action civics on school districts by state legislation—and even well-intentioned civics legislation can have its intent perverted by radical activists in state education departments and local school districts. Civics reformers should consider the local circumstances in each state carefully as they proceed. Policymakers should be informed that civics legislation should be carefully scrutinized, to make sure it does not provide unintentional support for action civics.
Civics reformers therefore should carefully examine our own model bills and issue briefs. They should be scrutinized to ensure they allow no loopholes for action civics.
Proposed State Legislation
Model K-12 Civics Code
Civics education cannot be reformed piecemeal. Proper civics education reform requires a larger reform of each state’s social studies curriculum, which includes civics education and history education as part of a larger, coherent whole. This larger reform should preserve what is valuable in each state’s existing laws, repeal laws that damage social studies instruction, and add new laws to strengthen civics and history education.
We have produced a Model K-12 Civics Code to cover the entire range of K-12 civics education legislation. We have based this Model Civics Code as much as possible on existing state laws, which we first gathered in our State Statutes webpage. It includes material on relatively uncontroversial material such as displaying the American flag–partly because existing legislation addresses such matters and partly because we fear such matters may soon become “controversial,” when they in turn become the target of radical activists. We also include recommendations for which state laws should be repealed in whole or in part. Our emphasis, however, is to provide civics education reformers in each state a coherent model for what civics education should be.
Among these model bills, the most important is the Partisanship Out of Civics Act (POCA), which bans action civics and the intellectual components of Critical Race Theory.
Our second priority is the Civics Course Act (CCA), which establishes a K-12 civics course, crafted so as to teach traditional civics and to avoid capture by action civics.
Once these priorities have been accomplished, we encourage civics education reformers to enact the entire Model K-12 Civics Code.
Higher Education Civics Priorities
K-12 Civics education cannot be fixed alone. State legislators must also reform undergraduate and graduate-level instruction. We have therefore produced a list of Higher Education Civics Priorities, to complement our Model K-12 Civics Code. Among these Priorities, the most important is the American History Act (AHA), which adds an American History and Government general education requirement to public universities. We have phrased the remainder of these recommendations as goals rather than in legislative language.
Civics education reform requires further detailed reform, for which we have not yet provided model legislation. Some of these reforms, in any case, require detailed administrative codification and cannot be spelled out fully in state legislation. We provide these strategic goals to provide general guidance for civics education reform on the state level.
Reform State Social Studies and Civics Standards
Many state education departments set statewide K-12 social studies and civics standards. These standards frequently steer these classes toward radical interpretations of American history and government and toward action civics. State legislators should establish procedures by which to reform statewide K-12 social studies and civics standards and ensure that they provide a framework of proper civics instruction.
Keep Action Civics Out of Advanced Placement Classes
The College Board’s AP United States Government and Politics Advanced Placement Examination now asks students to complete a Project Requirement of action civics. States should pass legislation that ensures that no high school class may teach an Advanced Placement class that requires service-learning, civic engagement, action civics, or any cognate activity; that no state money may fund taking advanced placement tests that require action civics; and that no public university may give credit to courses that include service-learning, civic engagement, action civics, or any cognate activity.
State Policy Toolkit
Civics reformers should use the State Policy Toolkit to learn how to inform policymakers about action civics and proper civics education.