A Letter to Senator Derek Slap from one of our members
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Thanks again for coming to Progressive Women of Greater Hartford’s end-of-summer meeting on Monday evening.
It was a good give-and-take and I think those who attended got a good sense of your background, your values, and the issues you care deeply about. We appreciated your willingness to take all questions and listen to our concerns.
I have been interested for years in how schools can do a better job of preparing young people to be informed/engaged citizens and likely voters. I first reached out to you on this issue in 2022 during the pandemic, and one of your aides (Daniela Luna) sent me a copy of the CT Social Studies Frameworks that discusses on pages 103-107 what is covered in the high school curriculum on Civics and Government.
I read this week in the Courant that the 2025-26 school year will make instruction in civics and media literacy mandatory for CT high school students. No details were provided on how this instruction would be implemented, or how these topics are covered in elementary and middle school. It seems there is still time to build out this initiative to make it more robust and comprehensive and to build in some student assessments at 8th grade and 10th or 11th grade to measure a student’s mastery of the material. No student should be able to earn a high school diploma without a passing grade on this test.
I’m hoping that very soon every public and private school in CT has in place a comprehensive curriculum of age-level-appropriate civics/government and media education for every elementary/middle/high school student. Sounds like a tall order, but our state has an opportunity to lead the way, as we have in gun safety legislation, women’s reproductive health, LGBTQ rights, etc. At the moment Colorado and Idaho are leaders in this area. There are many “best practice” models out there.
The goal should be to start instruction with students as young as second grade learning about their local community through a study of “community helpers”: teachers, police/fire/EMT workers, librarians, doctors and nurses, mail carriers, bus drivers, sanitation workers, etc. In successive years the elem students would start to learn the fundamentals of representative democracy by learning how town/city/county governments function, state history and government, and finally federal government—including an introduction to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the amendments, the three branches of government, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, how a bill becomes a law. Each year’s topics build on the last. When young people learn that voters have a say in how leaders are elected and how the people are governed, they are more likely to become lifelong engaged citizens.
Teacher training is essential. CT teachers entrusted to teach this content must be certified on a regular basis as qualified to teach a fair and balanced curriculum. No politics. Students can learn experientially by participating in school government.
At the end of the Monday night meeting, I suggested that CT could encourage and reward student leadership and initiative by holding an annual luncheon honoring student leaders (across a range of topics like student government, community service, good citizenship, voter registration, environmental initiatives, etc.) nominated from every high school and community college in the state. Inspirational guest speaker, student speakers, scholarship awards, certificates of achievement, opportunities to intern with CT state reps, meet the governor and members of the CT congressional delegation, etc. This seems like it would be an easy and worthwhile program to implement.
Thanks for giving these ideas some thought. I believe that our group, Progressive Women of Greater Hartford, would be interested in working with your office on these and other initiatives if there is a role for us.
Keep up the great work!