Defining what it means for students to be “civic ready” remains a goal of the Nebraska State Board of Education.
But a draft definition of civic readiness that drew sharp criticism last winter is on hold for now.
The definition, crafted largely by Nebraska educators under the guidance of the Nebraska Department of Education, may be folded into a broader description of student readiness that board members are pondering.
Maureen Nickels, who chairs the board’s teaching and learning committee, said Thursday that the committee favors a delay.
Nickels said the committee is developing a definition of college, career and civic readiness, rather than defining civic readiness in isolation.
Rachel Wise, a board member, said it makes sense to look at all three concepts together.
“To take one out … is maybe a disservice in not putting it in a context of all three,” Wise said.
The draft definition drew letters of support from national social studies groups.
But the definition was criticized by Sen. Mike Groene, chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee, who said it did not mention America or reflect statutes already on the books that direct teachers on how to prepare students for civic life.
Under the proposed definition, readiness would mean not only understanding history and how government works but also demonstrating “the dispositions that citizens need in a republic.” The dispositions would include respect for the law, “concern for the constitutional rights and freedoms of others” and “a recognition of the need for public welfare, safety and fairness.” The one-page definition says civic skills “encompass thoughtfully speaking, listening, collaborating, community organizing and public advocacy.” Civic skills, it says, “require the ability to gather and process information, including opposing viewpoints, in order to demonstrate a substantial understanding of why that view is held.”
Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said the definition could be folded into the social studies standards, perhaps as a preamble to the standards.
“The definition itself was kind of just hanging out there on its own,” he said. “Does it actually fit in the standards process? Does it fit somewhere else?”
Blomstedt said the standards update will begin in earnest this fall, with board approval expected in December 2019.