Editorial

The idea of encouraging young people to get involved in the political process may benefit from going back to school.

It’s words we wrote around this same time in 2019, when Minnesota Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, and Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, advocated for House File 249 and Senate File 294, to ensure students are adequately prepared to be capable citizens able to fully participate in the political process.

We got behind the bills then and we will do it again for this year’s bill, House File 562, which would require juniors or seniors to take civics as a credit-bearing subject.

Urdahl, who taught social studies and civics for 35 years in the New London-Spicer district, points to a National Association of Education Progress report that shows seniors graduate with 25-percent proficiency on the subject.

“We need to change the way we teach civics in our schools because, when taught effectively, civics can equip students with the knowledge and dispositions necessary to become informed and engaged citizens,” Urdahl said in a statement.

A letter from a social studies teacher in Darwin, Minn., reminded us, and a whole lot of other newspapers, to the cause behind which we can throw our support.

He points out: In Litchfield we do teach civics for credit to juniors and seniors. We teach it to the older kids because they are ready to learn it, they are becoming voters and participants in civic life. It works very well. It can be done.

The best candidates are selected in the voting booth by an informed electorate. But knowing who a candidate is and what they stand for can only come about by understanding the process that has brought those candidates forward. That’s the part that Urdahl said is lacking in society.

We agree that when three out of four Minnesota high school graduates lack proficiency in civics, we aren’t teaching it well enough. House File 562 would help.

This bill would rightly restore civics as a component of Minnesota’s educational system, strengthening the next generation of Minnesotans and at the same time strengthening our democracy.