TRENTON, NJ – In an effort to ensure students are receiving adequate civics and government education, legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley Turner, Troy Singleton, M. Teresa Ruiz, and Linda Greenstein, requiring civics instruction in middle school, was enacted into law on Friday.
“By deepening civics instruction in middle school and high school, we are giving students the tools they need to be more engaged and informed citizens,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “An understanding of civics strengthens our democracy by ensuring an understanding of the role that everyone plays in the future of their community, our state, and our nation. I am proud to sign this bill into law and honor Laura Wooten’s incredible civic legacy.”
The new law, formerly S-854, directs the Department of Education to require at least one course specifically in civics or United States government as part of the social studies credit requirement for middle school graduation.
“The events that transpired on January 6th represent one of the darkest days in American history. It not only showed the dark underbelly of our nation, but also the vital importance of civics education,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “We need to properly educate our young people so they can become critical thinkers who are able to discern truth from fiction. They must understand the foundations of our representative democracy, and take a participatory role in it. Through civics, it is our collective hope that these students will not be indoctrinated into any one particular political ideology but rather become informed and educated citizens that will shape our nation for generations to come.”
Additionally, the law directs the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers to prepare curriculum guidelines and provide professional development for high school teachers, integrating civics, economics and the history of New Jersey into United States history courses.
The law is named for the late Laura Wooten, a great New Jerseyan from Mercer County who passed away in March of 2019 and holds the record as the longest, continuously serving poll worker in the United States. She volunteered at local, primary and general election polls for 79 years.
“According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, only a quarter of all Americans can name the three branches of government. It is a sad reality that a large percentage of our country does not understand how their own government works. Everything that has happened since the presidential election last fall has shown us that this lack of understanding is a threat to our democracy,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “In order to have future Americans engaged in our government, we need to ensure they are educated on government matters so we can tackle big issues together. A required civics course in our public schools will assure future generations are educated on how their government works.