TALLAHASSEE Leon County School students this year will benefit from a newly-developed civics curriculum designed to be replicated state-wide, thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
With Florida students lagging in civics and U.S. history, the pilot project will provide students with the skills they need to make decisions about and participate fully in their communities. Leon County, the seat of state government, will provide an ideal backdrop for the project.
No matter what their profession, everyone needs to understand what it takes to be an effective citizen in a democratic system, Jackie Pons, superintendent of Leon County Schools, said. The strength and stability of our way of life depends on that.
All 32,000 K-12 Leon County students will be enriched by the interactive program, which includes moot court exercises at the local courthouse, a mock election that coincides with this falls votes and participating in service learning projects. Also, seventh graders will take a year-long course in civics. Teachers who helped craft the program emphasized the importance of fostering reflective discussion and debate along with other skills needed to influence leaders at the local, state and federal levels.
The curriculum was developed through a partnership between Leon County Schools, the Florida Law Related Education Association and the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, a project of the University of Floridas Bob Graham Center for Public Service and the University of Central Floridas Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government. Knight Foundation, which is contributing $471,291 to the effort, is the lead funder.
As these organizations work together, Leon County will serve as a laboratory for the state an example of what a comprehensive civics program should look like, Sen. Bob Graham, who helped launch the project Tuesday, said.
We have strayed from our Founders vision of the central purpose of public education in America, and our students are civically illiterate, U.S. Rep. Lou Frey, who had hoped to join Graham Tuesday, added. This program is a vehicle to save our next generations."
Acknowledging Floridas weakness in the subject area, the 2006 Legislature required all middle schools to offer at least one semester of civics. After the Leon County pilot project is completed, the Joint Center for Citizenship plans to extend the program to other districts throughout the state.
The Legislatures mandate provides a window of opportunity to develop ways to prepare our young people to become more connected to their communities and governments, said Mike Pate, Knight Foundations program director for Tallahassee. This pilot program in Floridas capital and seat of state government allows Leon County Schools to take advantage of that opportunity to move civics education forward in the state of Florida.
About the Joint Center
The Florida Joint Center for Citizenship is a partnership between the Lou Frey Institute of Politics and Government at the University of Central Florida and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. Established in 2007, the Joint Center will develop a variety of initiatives intended to strengthen civic education and improve the condition of Floridas civic health.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of communities in the United States where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers. Knight Foundation invests in ideas and projects that can lead to transformational change.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.