Newberry bill for civic literacy in Rhode Island schools passes House

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STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island House of Representatives has passed “The Civic Literacy Act”, requiring young adults to demonstrate proficiency in civics education before high school graduation.  The bill is sponsored by Rep. Brian Newberry of District 48 in North Smithfield and Burrillville.

Aimed at providing youth with the critical knowledge needed to become responsible stewards of the American government, the bill – H 5028 – would have students learn about America’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and both the US and Rhode Island Constitutions.

“A thorough grounding in civics should be a cornerstone of every education consisting of two parts,” said Newberry. “First it should contain a deep understanding of the foundation of our nation’s government systems and structures, with neither their imperfections whitewashed nor their subtlety, genius and keen reflections of the limitations and foibles of human nature downplayed or diminished. Second, it should contain practical instruction in how government at all levels works, the interplay between those levels, the limitations on power and constructive ways in which to effect change in public policy.”

Commencing with the graduating class of 2025, the curriculum will incorporate project-based and experiential learning, where students would conduct in-depth research on a local issue of choice, then engage with a government body to learn advocacy processes utilized to influence the subject. The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary education at the Rhode Island Department of Education will implement the program.

One of the staunch proponents of “The Civic Literacy Act” is co-sponsor Rep. Gregg Amore of District 65 in East Providence, a history teacher of 31 years at East Providence High School.

“As we watch our country suffer from division, distrust, and disinformation from all directions, it is vital to the health of our democratic republic that the future generations of our country know and understand how our government functions and how our current society came to be from its inception in 1776,” said Amore, just one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill. “Without this critical knowledge, we are doing a great disservice to our students and hampering their abilities to be engaged and well informed citizens during their adult lives. In order for a better world to be created by future generations, our students need to know why change is needed and how to advocate for change. This is only possible through civics education.”

The bill was also supported by co-sponsors Reps. Lauren Carson, Thomas Noret, Rebecca Kislak, Julie Casimiro, and Barbara-Ann Fenton Fung.

It now heads to the Senate for consideration and passage.

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