Blumenauer and Oregon Education Leaders Call for Stronger Civics Requirements at State and Federal Level

May 11, 2021
Press Release
Oregon is one of only 11 states that lacks civics graduation requirement.

As the nation continues to reckon with the fallout of the January 6 insurrection, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Oregon Rep. Ricardo "Ricki" Ruiz, and other local leaders today called for stronger civics education in Oregon and at the federal level. Specifically, the lawmakers and advocates highlighted the importance of the Civics Education Act (SB 513), which is being considered by the Oregon House Committee on Education this week, as well as the USA Civics Act championed by Blumenauer in Congress.

“Failing to foster greater civic engagement will only accelerate and invite further threats to our democracy like we saw on January 6, a wake-up call that showed why we must strengthen civics education,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “Being able to have knowledgeable citizens is the protection we need for our democracy. We have an opportunity in Oregon this session to no longer be one of the few states that doesn’t even require civics education. I sincerely hope that the Oregon legislature will take the step to equip our young people to be guardians of democracy. It’s more important now than ever.”

“Over the winter, in both Salem and Washington, D.C., our Capitols were attacked by people intending to cause great harm to our lawmakers, staffers, and first-responders. As we recover and move past these events, we must reimagine our approach at legislating and how we view education,” said Oregon Rep. Ricardo "Ricki" Ruiz. “This starts by holding a conversation on civics education in schools and ensuring we have an educated generation of leaders who will not only encourage civic engagement in our democracy, hold our elected leaders accountable, but also, make elected office tangible for many.”

Currently, Oregon is one of only 11 states that lacks a graduation requirement for a civics education class. According to a 2016 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, three-quarters of Americans couldn’t identify the three branches of government, and one in three couldn’t name a single branch at all.

"Senate Bill 513 will ensure that all Oregon students, regardless of where they live and what school they go to, will benefit from the opportunity to learn not only the facts about the history, structure, founding, and intent of their government and institutions, but also about their role, rights, and responsibilities related to civic engagement,” said Classroom Law Project Executive Director Erin Esparza. “So, as they head out into the world, they are ready to vote, to engage with their communities, to have their voices heard, and to effectively participate in our democracy and help shape our future.”

“Democracy is hard. Democracy requires something of the individual. It requires us to be intelligent, to be informed, to be active participants. If we are going to actually ask our students to grow into the role of citizen, we need to prepare them to do that. It doesn’t happen organically, it isn’t something we can expect to have a positive outcome if we don’t do any work on the front end,” said Sisters High School social studies teacher Gail Greaney. "Putting our resources in Oregon towards a dedicated civics course indicates that that's something we value, that we value an active, informed citizenry."

“Our government is determined by the people and civic instruction teaches us about our rights, laws, and our government. It gives students the foundations that they need to make up their own minds about political issues, policies, and teaches them that their voice and vote matters. A civics class can open so many eyes and inspire and create future lawmakers, lawyers, and maybe even a future president,” said Parkrose High School student Josedavid Muñoz-Ronquillo. “If it is the role of schools to prepare students for the outside world, then civics education should be a part of what we are learning. I believe it is our civic duty to understand the power of our shared government. This is why, on behalf of Oregon high school students, I strongly advocate on behalf of this bill.”

The Civics Education Act is a measure that guarantees every Oregon high school student receives one semester of civics education before graduation. A work session on the legislation has been scheduled in the Oregon House Committee on Education this Thursday.

Video of today’s press conference can be found here.

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