Illinois Senate considers requiring civics class in middle schools

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD – Students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades in Illinois could soon have a new class in voting and government.

The Illinois Senate is going to take up a proposed requirement to teach civics in middle school.

Illinois high schools already teach civics, but Shawn Healy with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation said students need an earlier start than that.

“We also know that the more knowledgeable and confident a person is in their own civic competency and skills, the more likely they are to vote regularly, participate in a wide range of civic activities, and believe that the government is a source for good,” Healy said Tuesday.

A Senate panel cautiously approved the idea.

Lawmakers are cautious because they’re not sure schools can fit a full semester of civics into an already crowded school day.

“What gets squeezed out when this comes in?” state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, asked Healy. “When you study this and say you’re going to try and motivate people to work on something. Do we have any idea what gets squeezed out of the curriculum?”

Healy said he knows what’s been squeezed out.

“Social studies has been squeezed out by other tested subjects, English language arts, math and to a lesser extent science,” Healy said. “So hopefully this gets squeezed back in.”

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