Illinois is one of only 10 states where students are not required to take a civics course. A task force of legislators and educators now recommends that students learn not just the history of government, but how to participate in it.
Under current state law, high school students must complete two credits of social studies, including learning about the constitutions of both the United States and Illinois, as well as the proper use and display of the flag. But a task force has found that such courses often emphasize memorizing names and dates instead of current events and news literacy.
Task force chair Shawn Healy said that's akin to showing kids the mechanics of a bicycle without encouraging them to hop on and experience the ride.
"Exactly, yeah, it's reading notes in the hymn book without ever practicing the instrument," Healy said, "and we think students need to practice the instruments of democracy."
The General Assembly created the task force, which will deliver its final report to lawmakers in December. Recommendations include professional development for teachers and community service projects for both middle and high school graduation.
The task force will take public comment Tuesday in Springfield from 4 to 6 p.m. at Lanphier High School.