Concerned about voter mistrust, VT Secretary of State’s Office promises updated ‘civics’ educational materials
By Guy Page
The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office announced yesterday it will produce civics teaching materials in an effort to reduce Vermonter’s cynicism, lack of knowledge, and distrust regarding state and national elections and government.
“Lately I have been considering this question alongside another crisis we are facing: a declining public trust in our government and institutions,” Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters said in an op-ed. “…..Through civics, we can gain an appreciation for free speech, assembly, and protest, but just as important we learn about civil discourse, debate, compromise, and how to engage with others who may not agree with you.”
The Secretary of State’s Office says it is committed to reviving civics education and will leverage knowledge of elections and history in the Vermont State Archives to produce educational materials.
“We have started the process of convening stakeholders to assist us in this critical mission, and welcome both your input and participation. We are seeking funding and additional partners so if you have interest or an idea, please reach out,” Winters urged. His work email address is email@example.com.
In days to come Vermont Daily Chronicle will cover news about this development, including the names and perspectives of stakeholders as they become available. It remains to be seen if the Vermont initiative follows the traditional path of teaching Constitutional government, or a national, politically-progressive ‘civics’ movement represented by Civxnow.org, which describes itself as “a national cross-partisan coalition of over 100 organizations focused on improving our nation’s K-12 in and out-of-school civic education.”
But a quick visit to the CivxNow website betrays a perspective of concern to some Vermonters.
The front page blares, “DENOUNCING THE ASSAULT ON OUR CAPITOL. January 6, 2021 is a day that will live in infamy. The violence visited upon the U.S. Capitol — the very building that symbolizes our constitutional democracy — is further evidence of the fragility of our democracy. The leadership of the CivXNow Coalition unites in condemning the insurrection and urges all citizens and leaders to do the same.
Just below that supposedly ‘cross-partisan’ statement is a link to a white paper titled “Equity in Civic Education.” The opening paragraph contains this run-on sentence:
“At the same time, our ongoing work gained renewed urgency in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, along with far too many other unarmed Black Americans at the hands of the police, has elevated public concern around racial inequity in our society, causing millions of people to reconsider their responsibility in combating systemic racism. All the while, groups of individuals are using misinformation and disinformation in virtual spaces to further incite fear and mistrust amongst the people.”
Clearly, the concept of ‘civics education’ as taught by CiviXNow isn’t about Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms or your father’s junior high civics class. Time will tell what version of civics the Vermont Secretary of State will present to Vermont educators and their students.
Other organizations cited in the Civixnow.org report are ICivics.org and Generationcitizen.org.