How long is a US senator’s term in office? Can you name the general who led the American troops at the Battle of Yorktown?
If you know the answers to these American civics questions, you are in the minority.
According to a study commissioned by the academic watchdog group American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), when seniors at elite colleges were asked basic questions about our nation’s history—questions typical of a standard high school curriculum—81% received the equivalent of a D or an F!
Only 20% could identify James Madison as the “father of the Constitution.” Nearly two-thirds were unaware that a senator’s term is six years, and 43% could not even identify the chief justice of the US Supreme Court.
In a charge to the people of our newly formed nation, George Washington said:
A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing . . . [than] communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?
Healthy citizenship was important then, and it is important now. But as Washington pointed out, civic engagement first requires civic literacy—the knowledge of our rights and duties as citizens and an understanding of the structures that form our government.
Here at Generation Joshua (GenJ), we believe there are three key components of healthy citizenship training:
- Teaching our young men and women to care about their liberty and be willing to guard it.
- Ensuring that they are well educated in how their liberty works and how to preserve it.
- Giving them confidence in that knowledge so they can be bold in communicating it to others.
As many years as I’ve worked as GenJ’s executive director, my favorite part of the job is still seeing GenJ students’ eyes light up as they begin to understand new lessons in civics, history, and politics.
It is our solemn responsibility—and, for me, a sincere pleasure—to help the future guardians of our country’s liberties understand what liberty means. This is what we at GenJ do, and we believe these lessons are just as pressing and essential now as they were at our nation’s founding—if not more so.
As the results from the ACTA survey show, there is a crisis of civic illiteracy among our nation’s youth—and the long-term ramifications for freedom are grave.
That risk of lasting consequences is not one that GenJ is willing to take, and we are proud to say that many of GenJ’s students stand in marked contrast to the typical college senior.
The power of knowledge
Can I give you a look at another way GenJ trains the next generation? We designed the curriculum iCitizen: Civic Literacy for Young Americans to be a staple of civic education for teens. It is used in individual homeschooling families, in co-ops, and in some private schools.
James Madison, the father of our Constitution, once said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” The Founders of our country knew how essential it was for each generation to understand our government so they could participate in it.
When my team and I were first writing iCitizen, we never contemplated a world where most students in America were suddenly being schooled at home. There is now a surge in demand for a high-quality civics curriculum that is mobile and free from paper and ink. With the goal of making iCitizen widely available in a world of social distancing, we are now releasing it in e-reader format—and, for a limited time, we are giving it away for free.
We want people to be educated in how our government works. And we want you to have your own copy of our curriculum! To download iCitizen, simply visit this link.
I hope that you are blessed and empowered by this text. And I ask that you invest in our nation’s future leaders by sharing iCitizen with others. Study it together with your family, and please pass along the link to other families and young people who would enjoy learning from this resource.