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Many High Schools Across the United States Offer Limited Civics-focused Extracurricular Activities

Debate offers students a chance to further build their civic knowledge

March 12, 2024 (The Brookings Institute/brookings.edu) – Public education plays a critical role in preparing youth to participate in our democracy. Civics education experts have identified 10 “proven practices” that K-12 schools should use to provide effective civics learning (see Table 1). These practices are notable for the range of activities they encompass, including formal instruction in civics-related topics like history and government, service-learning opportunities, and extracurricular activities.

In this post for Civic Learning Week, the Brookings Institute builds on prior efforts to examine the prevalence of the 10 proven practices. Researchers focused on extracurricular activities (proven practice 4)—a practice that has gotten some but limited prior attention. Extracurricular activities potentially encompass both formal and informal activities, may or may not be student-led, and might take place within or outside of the school day. They focused on activities that have an explicit emphasis on civics such as debate teams, student government, and Model United Nations (UN). Not only can these activities offer students a chance to further build civic knowledge, they can also encourage teamwork and help students learn to overcome challenges.

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