Civics in American Public Schools: State Constitutions and the Right to an Education

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Virginia Tech

A literal reading of the United States Constitution finds no mention of education.  Because no fundamental federal mandate exists to provide public education for citizens, the Tenth Amendment gives states the authority for public education policy.  Because states have different constitutional standards for education, civics requirements have little national consistency.  This thesis explores the connections between state constitutional provisions for public education and graduation requirements for civics in each state. The research examined how state constitutions address education policy and whether states with language specifically connecting education to the maintenance of democracy required more stringent civics requirements for students to graduate from secondary school.  Further investigation explored whether and how state constitutions in Minnesota and Wisconsin appeared to influence the development of graduation requirements.  Indeed, Minnesota, whose constitution connects education to the maintenance of democracy, had a curriculum policy process far more rooted in its constitutional traditions than did Wisconsin, which had no such constitutional language or curriculum process.

U.S. Constitution, Civic Education, Public Schools, State Education Policy, State Constitutions