Improving Civic Education in Maine’s Public Colleges and Universities

Read the full report | Last year, the Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) published a report titled Failing Our Students, Failing America: Holding Colleges Accountable for Teaching America’s History and Institutions. As with the Institute’s 2006 study on civic education at the nation’s colleges, the 2007 report concluded that “the average college senior knows astoundingly little about America’s history, government, international relations and market economy.” According to ISI, the failure of the nation’s colleges to significantly improve civic understanding was due in part to “inadequate college curriculum.” The colleges, ISI concluded, simply aren’t teaching the fundamentals of American civics and history.

Maine’s public colleges seem to do no better. Motivated by ISI’s 2007 report, The Maine Heritage Policy Center undertook a study of the civics-related general education requirements for the schools of the University of Maine system. The report that resulted, Civic Education in the University of Maine System, found that none of the schools of the state’s university system require students to take “a class in the basics of the U.S. Constitution, coursework in the fundamentals of the national and world economy, or even a survey class in America’s history and heritage.”

Clearly, both here in Maine and across the nation, more must be done to improve the effectiveness of collegiate-level citizenship education. What is the right approach?

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