Skip to main content

CIRCLE Releases Influential Report on Civic Education

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On October 9, CIRCLE's Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge released a groundbreaking report with brand-new findings about youth turnout and civic education.

CIRCLE Launches Commission Report

An integral part of Tisch College, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) produces timely, cutting-edge research on topics of civic education and the political participation of young people. Following the 2012 presidential election, CIRCLE launched the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge, a bipartisan group of experts tasked with identifying the most pressing challenges to increasing informed voting and engagement, and suggesting ways to overcome those barriers.

This past Wednesday, the Commission released its report, “All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement,” at the National Press Club. CIRCLE Director Peter Levine and Deputy Director Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg presented some of the report’s major findings and recommendations; they were joined by commission members Rob “Biko” Baker from the League of Young Voters and Trey Grayson of the Harvard Institute of Politics, along with Huffington Post’s Senior Political Reporter Amanda Terkel.

“The research for this new report demonstrates the urgency of better civic education in schools and community-based organizations that include youth,” said Levine.

The Commission report is based, in part, on data collected from more than 6,000 young adults and 720 high school civics or government teachers, and an analysis of all states’ voting and education laws. It presents several brand-new findings, for example:

  • Non-college youth had a lower 2012 voter turnout in states with photo-ID laws, while same-day registration improved overall youth turnout.
  • Attending racially diverse high schools predicted lower levels of electoral engagement and informed voting.
  • Nearly a quarter of civics or government teachers surveyed believe parents or other adults would object to “bringing politics” into their classrooms.

Likewise, the report outlines a set of innovative recommendations aimed at elected officials, educators, youth associations, and many other stakeholders. For instance:

  • Lower the voting age to 17 in municipal or state elections so that students can be encouraged to vote while they are taking a required civics class.
  • Make voting more accessible through same-day registration, as well as online and mobile registration.
  • Support the discussion of controversial issues in schools, with accompanying teacher professional development.
  • Implement multiplayer role-playing video games as tools for civic education.

“Research shows that civics education works,” said Grayson. “Discussing controversial issues, engaging in service learning if it involves discussion of ‘root causes,’ being contacted by parties and campaigns, and participating in extracurricular groups all predict good civic outcomes for students.”

These findings and recommendations have received national press coverage in widely-read outlets like The Atlantic and U.S. News and World Report. A related op-ed from Levine and Grayson was also featured recently on The Hill.