We Need More Education

The right to a civics lesson

Last year, Rhode Island students and parents filed a class action lawsuit against the Governor and other government employees.  The claimants are fighting for an enhanced education in civics that prepares them to employ their constitutional rights to vote and serve on a jury.  According to their argument, the United States should provide more of an equal opportunity for all students to engage in lessons that help them participate within the democratic nation. 

As it stands now, some courses in civics are taken at an advanced placement level, rather than function as a prerequisite class that is required to be taken by all students.  Rhode Island is not included in the list of states that incorporate a civics course as a graduation requirement.  The fourteen plaintiffs named in the lawsuit argue that their education in civics is limited to a basic knowledge of the presidents.  They believe that while their district does not place an emphasis on civics, other considerably wealthier schools are able to access the resources needed to provide a well-rounded civics education.

This federal class action, referenced as the Brown v. Board of Education of this generation, may proceed to trial in the near future, pending a judge’s approval.  The one element that could possibly interrupt the move to trial in federal court is the fact that education laws are litigated on the state and local level. Additionally, case law suggests that funding for schools should remain within state jurisdiction.  The opposing argument contends that the Constitution does not mention a guaranteed right to education.  The plaintiffs must establish a convincing correlation between a lack of education and the inability to perform rights outlined in the Constitution. This push for national recognition of the importance of civics in school may lead to a groundbreaking change in federal legislation.  It is up to the courts to determine the lawsuit’s fate.