New Jersey is one of just ten states to not require school districts to provide a course on civics as part of students’ education on our nation’s history and democracy.
Seeking to fill this critical hole in school curriculum, the Assembly unanimously passed a bill (A-3394/S-854/237) Thursday to require all New Jersey students in an appropriate middle school grade to complete a civics course beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. The course would address the values and principles of the American system of constitutional democracy, the function and limitations of government, and the role of a citizen in a democratic society.
The New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers University would provide curricula, professional development and technical assistance for both middle and high school civics education.
The bill would be known as “Laura Wooten’s Law” in recognition of Mercer County’s longest-serving poll worker, who volunteered a record 79 continuous years before she passed away in 2019. Her voting rights advocacy inspired a coalition of college and high school students to launch the Poll Hero Project, an initiative to recruit young people to serve as poll workers.
The measure’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon), Linda Carter (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) and Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris) released the following joint statement:
“By definition, civics is the study of the rights and obligations of citizens in society. It is critical that we teach young people to understand their role in their communities and our democracy so that they have the tools they need to be well-informed, active citizens.
“The social studies curriculum in our schools currently focuses on a chronological history of the United States. In a country built on the engagement of ordinary citizens, civics must play a central role in our students’ education.
“Requiring civics lessons in our schools will inspire the next generation to appreciate and participate in our democracy.”