Alumni Support Schools on Civics Education

Henry Cyr
Issue Date: 
May, 2019
Article Body: 

With his November 8, 2018 signing of S2631, An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement, Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker said he was “…pleased to introduce new ways to strengthen civics education in the Commonwealth’s public schools.” The law, which takes effect in the 2020-2021 school year, will cover a wide range of curriculum topics including U. S., commonwealth and local history and government; the Constitution and Bill of Rights; the proper use and display of the American Flag; the roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy; and many others.
The bill will make it a requirement for Massachusetts public high schools, including districts serving eighth-grade students, to provide at least one student-led, non-partisan civics project for each student. It also creates a Civics Project Trust Fund, which will be used to assist Massachusetts communities with implementing history and civics education requirements. In addition, the offices of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Secretary of State will form a non-partisan high school voter challenge program to raise awareness for eligible students to register or pre-register to vote.
In summarizing the goals of the new law, Senate President Karen E. Spilka said that “Comprehensive civics education will equip our students with the tools they need to become the informed, active citizens our forefathers imagined when they created our systems of government.”
Locally, with the help of the Hopedale High School Alumni Association, the Junior-Senior High School has already launched a project to bring the requirements of the new law to fruition: an essay competition for all eighth graders, who recently completed 500-word papers on the topic The Bill of Rights and My Responsibilities. Maria Fischer, History Department Chair, thanked the Alumni for their support and added “Civics education has always been an important part of the fabric of our society. Now, more than ever, we must teach our students to be active participants and to be responsible, informed citizens.”
Alumni Association board members are reviewing the eighth graders’ essays and will select five students who will receive certificates and cash awards for their work at the junior high school’s recognition ceremony in June. The Alumni will also present all 90 eighth graders with a personal, pocket-size copy of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution.
Alumni Board member Janet Ellis said “We’ve given scholarships and grants for classroom teachers at all three Hopedale schools over the years. We’re thrilled to add our support for something as important to us all as civics education.”