Civic Participation

Civic education is being crowded out of the school day. If the Constitution is taught at all, it’s taught as a dusty piece of parchment written by dead guys in powdered wigs. Not every student will be a mathematician or a physicist, but every student will be a citizen.


Davenport Central High students protest Hazelwood-based censorship at the start of the University of Iowa's First Amendment awareness march outside of the Ames, Iowa city hall.

What we believe

Student journalism is “participatory civics.” When students start attending government meetings and court hearings, and asking how those agencies work, they learn how a bill really becomes a law. Citizenship education must teach students how to consume and create media, so they can make their voices heard on issues of social and political concern. And the law must protect their right to address those issues free from school retaliation. Censorship teaches students that it is a citizen’s job to make the government look good, and that criticizing the government is an act of disloyalty. It is “civic mis-education.”

What we’re doing about it

  • We train young people to use open-records and open-meetings laws to be effective government watchdogs.
  • We’re training high school students to provide reliable coverage of local school boards, filling the void left by cutbacks in the professional news media.
  • We’re teaching young people to understand the workings of the state and federal court systems, and how the Constitution works in their daily lives.
  • We track state legislation directly affecting students’ lives and provide them ways to make their voices heard.

How you can help

  • Work for state legislative reforms protecting the rights of students to speak freely on matters of public concern.
  • Support open-government laws ensuring that college presidential searches include meaningful public input.
  • Advocate for direct student representation on every school and college governing body.

“The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. The world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. It is a revolutionary world we live in, and … it is young people who must take the lead.”

— Robert F. Kennedy
Address on the Day of Affirmation
June 6, 1966,
Capetown, South Africa