"A major aim of education in the State of New York is to prepare its students for a productive and meaningful life as citizens in local, state, national, and international settings. The civics standard reflects the mounting concern that young people are becoming more and more disengaged from politics. In 1998 the National Association of Secretaries of State sponsored a survey of youth attitudes known as the New Millennium Project. That survey sampled the civic attitudes of 70.2 million American youths, ages 15 to 24, representing the largest generation of young people in American history—surpassing even the baby boom generation."
Among its findings, this survey reported:
- Voter turnout among youth (18- to 24-year-olds) declined from 50 percent in 1972 (when the voting age was lowered to 18) to approximately half that number in 1998. Voter turnout among youth with a high school education or less is half that of youth who have obtained some college education. Voter turnout among youth is also disproportionately low among nonwhite respondents and among those who are not in school, tend not to read newspapers, and tend not to use the Internet.
- Only 16 percent of those surveyed (15- to 24-year-olds) reported volunteering in a political campaign, yet 53 percent reported volunteering with a nonpolitical organization (primarily in the social services).
- Ninety-four percent of respondents agreed that the most important responsibility of citizenship is to help others; 60 percent or more cited their highest priorities as “a close-knit family” and “gaining knowledge, education, and skills.” The disappointing news is that the lowest rated priorities held by only one fourth of youth are “caring about the good of the country,” “being involved in democracy and voting,” and “being involved and helping your community be a better place.”
- Only 25 percent of respondents could correctly identify the name of the vice president of the United States, the governor of their state, and the length of the term for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. However, most respondents (60 percent) think that government should help families achieve the American dream and think that government can (72 percent) and should (56 percent) have an impact on their lives. At the same time, most respondents (64 percent) think that government is run by “a few big interests looking out for themselves” and that “you can’t trust politicians because most are dishonest” (58 percent).
- Most respondents (67 percent) think that their generation “has an important voice but no one seems to hear it.”
"The 12th grade is actually the student’s “commencement grade,” and for good reason. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word commence means “to begin, start . . . come into existence.” In this sense, the 12th grade is not the end but a beginning in which the student begins to think about entering a new life beyond the schoolhouse door. An important part of this preparation is the ability to synthesize and apply—to put things together, take stock, and apply knowledge to the real world. The culminating social studies course for Standard 5, Participation in Government, can provide a critical teaching moment in this process in which the student is expected to learn, see, and practice citizenship in action."