U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Hilary Crow on K-12 Civics Education

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The Learning Curve – Hilary Crow

[00:00:00] Albert Cheng: Well, hello everybody, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Learning Curve podcast. I’m one of your co-hosts this week, Albert Cheng from the University of Arkansas. And Charlie, good to see you. Well, good to see you, Albert. I haven’t co-hosted with you in a while. It’s great to be back. yup, that’s Charlie Chippeo, co-hosting with me this week, hope you’re doing well.

[00:00:43] So let’s talk news, let’s jump right into it. For this week, I just wanted to give a little shout-out to Johnathan Haidt’s new book, The Anxious Generation. I don’t know, maybe some of our listeners are familiar with it already, it’s been getting quite a lot of press. You can see a link to one of the news stories on the Pioneer website here, I don’t know if this is a little news to you, but you know the rates of anxiety and depression are skyrocketing these days, particularly with younger folks, adolescents, folks in their 20s.

[00:01:14] The Anxious Generation really is one of the books to make sense of all of this. Jonathan Haidt is essentially making two arguments in this book. One is that we’ve gone away from what he calls Play based childhood. I don’t know, maybe this is how you and I grew up, where our parents just sent us out and had a lot of unsupervised play.

[00:01:34] And how we moved into what Hyde calls phone-based childhood, where certainly with the release of the smartphone and development of social media, you had kids being on screens. And that’s really replaced, play-based childhood. Hyde is making the argument that’s what’s causing a lot of the mental health issues that we have today.

[00:01:54] So anyway, I know there’s a lot of spirited conversation and debate over what’s going on, but I certainly find personally his arguments compelling and really amazing. Lots of questions for me as I raise my young kids too. So I don’t know. have you paid attention much to this topic and heard about the book?

[00:02:13] Charlie Chieppo: I had heard just a little bit about the book. I’ve certainly paid some attention to the topic because I have Two anxious kids, but I think it’s true. I think, as I was listening to what you were saying, Albert, all I could think was, I’m definitely from the day where you got home, you put yourself down, you went out in the next interaction you had with a parent was when one by one, they all looked out the front door and, yelled to wherever in the neighborhood they were because it was time to come home for dinner.

[00:02:43] I think there may be something to it myself, but then again, I’m just an old guy.

[00:02:47] Albert Cheng: Yeah. Anyway, I guess this is a book that is worth picking up and I don’t know that we can go back to what things were like before, but we certainly need to maybe think about how to reimagine raising kids in today’s day and age.

[00:03:02] Charlie Chieppo: Yeah, I think that’s right. And look, I think we can’t go back, but there are tips we can take from things we can apply. What did you see in the news? So the thing I saw that caught my eye was a piece that was, an opinion piece in The Hill from Aaron Garth Smith and Christian Barnard.

[00:03:20] It’s about the item in President Biden’s budget calling for an 8 billion program to further support COVID recovery. The goals are to increase student attendance and use expanded tutoring and additional learning time. Now, during the pandemic, we had 190 billion in emergency, education funds, K 12 education funds that came in three rounds.

[00:03:45] The biggest was the last one, the, 122 billion from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Just to give you an idea. What kind of money we’re talking about? That’s more than three times what the total federal K-12 budget was in 2020. And it came out to about 3, 800 per student. So the thing was that when it came to that, the American Rescue Plan, Congress required only 20 percent of it to be spent on learning loss.

[00:04:14] And look, I’m, I really am somewhat sympathetic on this. It’s what nobody expected during the pandemic. And when it hit, we did all had to do a lot of things really fast. And I think it’s certainly a lot to ask to get precision out of how these things were done. But I would say that, by the third round of this stuff, we had a little bit of an idea where things were going, which we certainly didn’t in the first couple.

[00:04:39] And I think it’s unfortunate that. This 122 million kind of ended up being a slush fund with no real coherent purpose to it. the data suggests that federal money was spent on things with little connection to student learning, no central office, and a lot of facility stuff. Look, I understand that ventilation in particular was a big issue then.

[00:05:02] But backfilling budgets, the thing that is my sort of bugaboo about all this kind of stuff is that you just knew that when this money came down, unfortunately, they were going to take a lot of one-time money and use it to plug holes for recurring expenses. And you get this fiscal cliff, it’s I’m shocked.

[00:05:20] Shocked that this, and I just look, I just really think that’s unfortunate. And today we’ve got. Students in the United States volunteer to cover about a third of their learning loss in math, and a quarter in reading. And the thing that got me was that it seemed to me that when you’re trying to deal with this learning loss, this kind of high-dosage tutoring would seem to be option one, right?

[00:05:40] Yeah. But only 37 percent of public schools do that. Used any relief money for that, which I thought was amazing. I think it was really a missed opportunity to prioritize learning loss when the money was there and to really focus on that money. And I think it’s, I think it’s terribly unfortunate, and if I could say something controversial, I just think that the degree to which content in academics is the focus of our schools.

[00:06:06] is diminishing, I think. And I think that concerns me as a parent. I sound more like my parents every day, but I guess that’s a fact. So there you go.

[00:06:15] Albert Cheng: yeah. we’ve talked about these topics in a couple of recent episodes on LearningCurve. I think it was a couple of weeks ago, when I talked about a tweet from Marguerite Rosa about how there’s a Wide variation in the relationship between spending and outcomes of these ESSER funds, right?

[00:06:30] Some schools spent a lot and grew a lot, and some schools spent a lot and didn’t grow at all. And I like to tell these beginning PhD students that come into our program here that, ed reform’s hard because there are certain institutional practices and ways of doing things that are entrenched and old habits die hard.

[00:06:45] Charlie Chieppo: Yeah. You bring up a good point there. I do think it’s certainly important to highlight the places that really did get really good results too. I don’t want to make us sound like we’re just getting down on the ones that didn’t.

[00:06:57] Albert Cheng: Yeah but this is the perennial question. How do we spend the money well?

[00:07:03] Charlie Chieppo: I haven’t figured that out but Albert, this is why I am increasingly, as I get older, I’m increasingly convinced that I should be the one to decide.

[00:07:12] Albert Cheng: As the host here, I’m gonna decide that we’re gonna go to our break and, tell our listeners on the other side, we have Hillary Crow, who is Vice President of Civics at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, so stick around for that interview.

[00:07:39] Hilary Crow is Vice President of Civics at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Her responsibilities include leading the Civic Trust, an initiative focused on civics literacy, civics at work, and elevating civics as a national priority. As part of this work, Hilary oversees the National Civics Bee, an annual competition aimed at increasing civics literacy among middle school students, their families, and communities.

[00:08:05] Notes The Bee is currently running in more than 100 communities across 28 states in partnership with state and local chambers of commerce. The Bee will also scale to all 50 states by 2026. Hilary earned dual bachelor’s degrees in political science and philosophy from the American University in Washington, D.C. Hilary, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you on.

[00:08:30] Hilary Crow: Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.

[00:08:32] Albert Cheng: So let’s give our listeners some background here first. You’re the U. S. Chamber Foundation’s Vice President of Civics. Could you first talk about just what’s the state of play of K-12 civics in the country?

[00:08:45] And what’s the Chamber Foundation’s role in helping drive basic understanding of our systems of government among school children?

[00:08:54] Hilary Crow: Civics literacy in America is at an all-time low. We know from the National Assessment of Educational Progress report that came out last year that nearly 80 percent of 8th graders cannot pass a civics test or are below proficient in civics.

[00:09:13] And this represents actually an all-time low that started assessing civics scores back in 1998. So now more than 25 years ago, for the record, adults aren’t doing much better, 70 percent of adults also fail a basic civics quiz. So the problem at hand, when it comes to civics in America is truly multigenerational.

[00:09:39] And it has led to many significant challenges that we’re seeing across the country. But for students in particular, the challenging thing is that whether you’re learning civics in school and to what degree really varies greatly based on the state that you’re in, and a lot of times even down to the school district that you fall in, the specific school that you go to.

[00:10:03] Civics now has an interesting interactive map that shows current state policies regarding civics education. for each state, you can click on that state and it’ll pull up information about whether or not they require civics in middle school, civics in high school, and whether it’s required for a full year or only half a year, etc.

[00:10:23] Their latest data shows that only 8 percent of the U. S. population States requires civics in middle school. So that doesn’t say that only eight states are teaching civics, but a lot of times those other states are not, it’s not a specific civics class, so they’re lumping it into some part of a social studies curriculum or other related, history, things like that.

[00:10:45] But the amount that they’re getting and the standards of which they’re being taught are very inconsistent, which is probably why only 21 percent of eighth graders are proficient. Civics today. And then at the high school level, the numbers go way up. So 37 states require civics in high school. Only six of those states require it for a full year.

[00:11:08] So 31 of those 37 states only require it for half a year or less of their high school. And so I think this paints a pretty bleak picture in terms of the state of civics in K through 12. In addition to this, It’s important to note that access to civics education and opportunities across types of communities is also highly unequal.

[00:11:32] Surveys by Brookings have shown that students in high-poverty areas as well as rural areas have significantly less access to civics. In fact, Tufts found that 60 percent of youths who live in rural areas are living in what they call civic deserts, which are defined as places that don’t have access to any resources or at the most one resource in terms of opportunity for civic and political learning and engagement.

[00:12:06] And unfortunately, this means that a large portion of young people in America have fewer opportunities to observe, participate, and learn about civic and political engagement. And our long-term competitiveness as a country depends on the strength of our democracy, our economy, and our workforce. And you asked the question about what the Foundation is doing to help address civics knowledge for young people.

[00:12:32] Back in 2022, we launched the National Civics Bee to address these declining rates of civic knowledge. This is a competition aimed at improving civics education and literacy among middle school students primarily, but also their families and communities. We believe that. All young people, no matter what job they dream of doing in the future, should understand how our democracy works and how to be active and engaged citizens.

[00:12:59] We’re on a mission to elevate civics and mobilize the business community to help us improve civic knowledge in every state across America. So we started with a pilot of the National Civics Bee in five places, and we’re driving toward expanding to all 50 states and reaching 50, 000 plus students per year, and hosting this as a nationally televised competition to increase public interest in civics, making civics fun and cool and exciting, which leads to greater demand for civic literacy and engagement.

[00:13:35] Through the Bee, we’re highly focused on reaching those students I mentioned in those civic desert-type areas. focusing on kids in rural and low-income communities. To do this, we’re working to form partnerships with key organizations like 4 H, Future Farmers of America, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and others.

[00:13:55] So it’s a fun competition for kids, but it’s also a serious strategy to reach parents and educators and elected officials and business and community leaders. And it’s a nonpartisan way to bring these people together. around elevating civics. In addition to the students participating in the quiz competitions, the audience plays along as well as an audience track of the quiz.

[00:14:20] So we get to educate adults at the same time and track the data on the back end on how well they’re performing. And. we’re really focused on impact. So we’ve retained Johns Hopkins University to conduct a longitudinal study on this so that we can measure the impacts that we can have in each of these communities over the long term.

[00:14:41] Albert Cheng: That’s great to hear. You’ve just talked about how civics has been marginalized in a lot of state education systems, and you just talked about the Civics BE. Now, part of your responsibility at the Chamber Foundation is also running the Civic Trust. So this is an initiative. focused on elevating civics as a national priority.

[00:15:01] Could you talk about what that effort looks like? The initiative, the Civic Trust, how is that going to remedy the civic and historical knowledge deficits among young people today?

[00:15:10] Hilary Crow: Our work on the Civic Trust really started back in 2018. We started looking at declining support for democracy, increasing levels of polarization, and.

[00:15:23] An overall lack of understanding of both how those systems work, our political and economic systems. And what we found was that it was really tied to this multi-generational decline in civics knowledge. We simply aren’t teaching this stuff anymore in the way that we used to about 40 years ago when we really stopped investing in civics.

[00:15:45] I’m a parent and I didn’t have civics when I was in school. I have a daughter in middle school right now and until I started introducing it to her, She had no idea what a democracy was or how our government is supposed to work. As a country, when we started investing in STEM, which was a good thing, unfortunately, our investment in civics education plummeted.

[00:16:07] We traded one for the other instead of. prioritizing both. And even with some increases in funding for civics in the last year or so, we’re still only investing about 50 cents per student when it comes to civics education compared to 67 per student per staff. So that sustained de-prioritization of civics has had real consequences.

[00:16:31] So the stat I mentioned before of nearly 80 percent of eighth graders below proficient in civics as well as 53 percent of Americans, adults, can’t name the three branches of government. 26 percent of adults can’t name a single First Amendment, like I said, these are multi-generational challenges and they’re significant when we think about The long-term strengths of our democracy and our competitiveness.

[00:16:56] We hear concerning stats like this all the time. One that was published last spring by the Reboot Foundation showed they had asked 13 to 17-year-olds and 18 to 24-year-olds, if they had to choose between giving up social media for a year or giving up their right to vote, which would you choose?

[00:17:20] Albert Cheng: Okay, I think I know where this is going.

[00:17:22] Hilary Crow: Yes, I’m sure, more than 60 percent of both age groups said they would choose to give up their right to vote in order to keep social media.

Albert Cheng: Wow. That makes you laugh, but it’s pretty sad at the same time.

[00:17:35] Hilary Crow: Yeah and so despite all of this, we’ve been optimistic and we’ve been seeing this complex challenge as an opportunity to turn what a lot of Americans are feeling as worry into work.

[00:17:49] And We launched the Civic Trust. Our mission is to catalyze the business community to act, to improve civic knowledge, and to educate Americans about the important relationship between democracy and capitalism. when we examined the field in 2018, we found that business has not been a real player here.

[00:18:09] Even though research shows employers are at stake when civil dialogue and polarization enter the workplace. And business, as we’ve seen year after year through the Edelman Trust Barometer, is one of the most trusted institutions in America. So there’s a real opportunity here for employers, specifically, to significantly move the needle regarding civics knowledge and skills in this position of their workers and the communities that they serve.

[00:18:37] With the Civic Trust, we have three pillars. One is civics literacy, which you’ve already heard me talk about with the National Civics Bee, really focused on increasing civic knowledge through the bee. The other two pillars are civics at work, in which we’re arming employers with tools and resources to make civics a reality.

[00:18:56] A workplace priority, engaging employees in civics learning and participation opportunities. And then the third pillar is more broadly elevating civics as a national priority. So leading and elevating conversations about civics throughout our programs, our events, our digital content, and research.

[00:19:14] And we know that through these three pillars, we will be able to reach young people. We’ll be able to reach multiple generations of adults through the workplace, as well as leaders across the country in a meaningful way.

[00:19:27] Albert Cheng: So Hilary, you just talked a little bit about the civic unrest that we’re facing today.

[00:19:32] And, we see that across the political spectrum. So from your view as this national leader in civics, I’d like to hear your thoughts about the relationship between civic unrest and the connection to the educational trends you’ve talked about. The way we’re teaching civics or not teaching it is one a direct cause of the other and what might be done to fix that if it is.

[00:19:52] Hilary Crow: Absolutely. It all ties back to knowledge. We simply cannot fix what we do not understand. We see challenges in our communities or in our country, things that we want to improve, but we’re stuck when we don’t know what to do or how to engage or how to effect change. And. There is a correlation, studies have shown, between polarization and civics literacy.

[00:20:19] Those studies have said that increased levels of civics literacy lead to decreases in levels of polarization. it’s a virtuous cycle. The more someone understands how our government is supposed to work, how to participate at the local level, who their local council members are, and their local and state representatives, the more likely They can be, the more empowered they are to reach out to them, to do something to effect change in their community, instead of maybe just venting about it on social media, or, starting an argument with somebody online, and, We know that the more we can educate people about civil discourse, civic skills, and dispositions, how to disagree without being disagreeable, that there’s a greater likelihood that people with opposing points of view can have productive discussions.

[00:21:07] With our Civics at Work program of the trust, we see a huge opportunity here for employers because more than 160 million Americans in the workforce, there is a huge opportunity to reach adults across generations through their employers. So we’re really reaching out and inviting. employers, organizations of all kinds and sizes to join us in elevating civics as a national priority.

[00:21:35] Because as I said, as the most trusted institution in America, businesses have a significant opportunity to create real impact and cultivate a working environment with improved knowledge, skills, and disposition. So thank you. To us, we see that the polarization and the knowledge levels are directly tied to each other and that there’s an opportunity that we can do something about it.

[00:21:59] Charlie Chieppo: Hilary, this is Charlie Chippeo. Thank you for joining us. You just mentioned a little bit about the role that employers can play in promoting civics. So I was wondering if I could ask you a little bit more about that. the chamber obviously has local affiliates around the country. Can you talk about particular state or big city chambers that are most engaged in advancing civics?

[00:22:18] What are the ways in which they’re promoting a better understanding of civics in schools?

[00:22:24] Hilary Crow: Thanks, Charlie. I think you’re trying to get me in trouble on this one asking me which one of my three children is my favorite. No, you’re right. The U. S. Chamber has a federation of incredible local and state chambers in every state across the country. To date, about 115 of them across 28 states have worked with us to bring the National Civics bee to their state, so we’ve had an opportunity to get to know all of those chambers really well. We initially piloted the bees in five places, so those five chambers that have been with us since the beginning definitely hold a special place for us.

[00:23:03] These include the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Brownsville Chamber, which is in Texas, and the North Iowa Chamber. And each of these has done tremendous work to elevate civics in their communities, in addition to the well and above. Kentucky and Iowa actually hosted their state competitions, I have to mention, at the Kentucky and Iowa State Championships.

[00:23:26] Policy was the most important aspect of the state’s affairs last year. So that was a lot of fun to see, really putting the importance of this front and center in their states. But specific to policy and civics in schools, just last month, lawmakers in Kentucky voted to enhance civics education in high schools.

[00:23:43] been raised standards for that testing. And the Kentucky Chamber President and CEO, Ashley Watts, actually testified in favor of the bill during the committee meeting in the House, noting the business community’s increased involvement in civic education in recent years, with the National Civics Bee in particular.

[00:24:01] But they’ve told us that the Bee has helped create public demand for this type of policy work at the state level. So that’s just one story we also know from the Erie Chamber in Pennsylvania that charter schools in their community decided to put civics back into their curriculums after their students participated in their local competition last year.

[00:24:23] And so we just have phenomenal chamber partners across the country. They are hosting these bees, but also taking the work to the state level and through policy and effecting real change for young people in their communities.

[00:24:40] Charlie Chieppo: But I’m sure hearing about the impact of the bee must have been music to your ears as well.

[00:24:44] Exactly. You’ve told us something about the bee. I was thinking before about how few, obviously it’s not enough, but at least. Students are, for the most part, studying some civics in high school, but talk to us a little bit about the importance of focusing on civics in the middle school grades.

[00:25:06] Hilary Crow: Sure. We chose middle schoolers for a few reasons. One, I don’t know if you know any middle schoolers. I have one at my home, but they are notoriously hard to reach and engage from an external perspective. So when we did some Studying in the field, we found that there are not a lot of competitions or opportunities for middle school students for this reason, because they are particularly difficult to get to participate in things like this.

[00:25:34] Of course, we saw that as an opportunity, but also because, as I mentioned earlier, There are only eight states that require civics classes for middle school students. We know that there is a significant lack of civic knowledge for these kids, and we wanted to provide an opportunity to really increase that in a big way.

[00:25:58] And we also did some research. and found that science shows that the preteen years are a critical second phase for brain development, where there’s more rapid learning happening during early adolescence than at any other age besides early childhood. And so high school is simply too late to have the greatest impact on developing these kids’ understanding of civics and ultimately their identities as citizens.

[00:26:27] And then finally, because it also meant that it would, Give us access to curates. We wanted to make sure that we were also reaching adults and high school kids. Many of them can drive themselves to compositions or to participate in things pretty asynchronously. Whereas middle school kids, the parents have to be much more involved, right?

[00:26:47] They’re sitting down with them. They’re helping them make the flashcards, and studying together, and they’re more engaged. based on the age of the student. And so we took all of that into consideration and decided that focusing on that age group in particular would be important.

[00:27:02] Charlie Chieppo: Interesting and with some of the feedback you’ve been getting, it sounds like that was clearly the right decision.

[00:27:06] Hilary Crow: There’s nothing more inspiring I have found than seeing young people on these stages. Talking excitedly, and passionately about issues in their community and how they can use civics to solve them. And learning for the first time, how they can work with local officials toward improving their communities and just seeing the spark, in their eyes.

[00:27:30] We’ve heard parents say from rural communities in particular, that opportunities like this just don’t exist for kids like ours. And this is so exciting to be part of. And now my son or daughter is talking about running for governor one day, or how to help teach their fellow classmates about how the government works, and being really excited about it.

[00:27:52] And so there’s a lot of inspiration there and We’re excited to continue to expand this across the country and reach even more communities like that.

[00:28:01] Charlie Chieppo: Yeah, I certainly remember when my kids were that age. And being that is a tough age at which to reach kids, that when you do reach them, it’s even more rewarding.

[00:28:13] Absolutely. I hear you there. A significant part of America’s democratic success has been our free market economy and its alignment with our constitutionalism and commitment to the rule of law. Would you talk about how civics should include students acquiring a basic familiarity with our economy, how it works, and some of the major historical figures that played key roles in our economic ascent, people like Alexander Hamilton, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morton and Carnegie, and I’m sure many more.

[00:28:43] Hilary Crow: Yes, absolutely. This is something that is very important to us, that Americans understand how both our democracy and free enterprise system works. In almost every recent survey, you look at across the country, asking people about the most important issues right now in America.

[00:29:02] The economy is at the top of the list, right? But so few people actually understand how our economic system works. We actually just concluded an economic literacy survey that we haven’t released yet, but spoiler alert, it shows that our economic literacy is even worse than our civics literacy.

[00:29:23] Charlie Chieppo: Wow.

[00:29:25] Hilary Crow: So what this means is we’re having significant challenges when it comes to the strength of our political and economic systems, but we don’t actually understand and therefore know how to fix either one.

[00:29:39] So this is not a good place to be. Again, we must start with knowledge. We have to ensure every American understands the basics of how our free market system works, and how capitalism works. And to show our commitment to this, we actually include questions in all of the civics quizzes at every local, national, and state competition through the B, related to the economy, because we want to make sure that students understand that information as well.

[00:30:08] To your question about incorporating figures such as Hamilton, Vanderbilt, Morgan, and Carnegie, Absolutely. Joining those with a civics curriculum will offer valuable insights into the historical context of our economic system, as well as the role of those individuals within it. So studying these figures presents a deeper understanding of economic principles and systems that have influenced our nation’s development.

[00:30:36] For example, Alexander Hamilton’s contributions to the establishment of the U. S. financial system and his advocacy for a strong central government can be examined to understand the foundations of American economic policy and so really understanding where it started and how it started and how it evolved to where it is today would be huge for young people to understand.

[00:30:59] And I think also just exploring the lives and legacies of these individuals offers students insight into the power dynamics present in our economic history. These figures were central to the rise of industries, such as transportation, Finance, and Steel, but we’ve also learned a lot about them related to monopolies and labor practices.

[00:31:22] So there’s been a lot of lessons that we’ve learned through them as well. So overall, integrating the study of major historical figures from our economic ascent into civics education really would enrich students’ understanding of not only the system but its historical roots and its larger implications for the current day.

[00:31:43] Thank you. It would empower them to be able to think critically about these topics and to really engage and participate effectively as they get older and develop how they can help shape the future of our economy and our society as a whole.

[00:31:57] Charlie Chieppo: Yeah, that is absolutely true. That is absolutely true. And it’s also, it’s great to learn about the different, real human characteristics that these people have.

[00:32:05] I think that really brings, The human element of studying other people, and once you humanize them, I think it really makes kids more interested in what they’ve done and, why they did it and those kinds of things. Yes. Finally, given the often radically balkanized state of the country and our schools, have the one major lesson drawn from American history, founding documents, Supreme Court decisions, or the civil rights movement that you think is most applicable for students and citizens alike in our current moment?

[00:32:34] And what’s the best mode for transmitting that civics lesson to students? That’s a tough one.

[00:32:39] Hilary Crow: Gosh, there are so many things. To pull from our very rich history of America, but drawing from the civil rights movement in particular, I think one major lesson for students and adults alike is the importance of collective action in the pursuit of positive change. So the civil rights movement, which spanned, of course, several decades and involved countless individuals and organizations really exemplifies the power of ordinary citizens coming together to challenge systemic problems and effectuate If we look at history from the Montgomery bus boycott to the March on Washington to Selma to Montgomery marches, the civil rights movement really demonstrated the transformative potential of grassroots organizing and coalition building.

[00:33:39] And so I think this lesson is particularly relevant in today’s very polarized America where social and political divisions often seem insurmountable. By studying the history of the civil rights movement, we can learn that progress is possible, even in the face of seemingly entrenched obstacles like those in that movement face.

[00:34:03] Charlie Chieppo: Yeah, I think so many, I was going to say so many young people, but so many of us generally really don’t have a handle on that. on just how entrenched that was and just what a hill to climb it was to seem to actually be able to make any impact on that system.

[00:34:19] Hilary Crow: Absolutely. And it also teaches that the civil rights movement also teaches us that change often requires not only legal and political reforms but also shifts in cultural attitudes and norms.

[00:34:32] The movement succeeded not just because of legislative victories, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but also because they challenged deeply ingrained prejudices and inspired a new awakening across the country. It helps remind us, if we really study it, of the power of unity and empathy and collective action in overcoming even our biggest societal divisions today, and how really working together, we can create a stronger democracy and stronger communities that benefit all people.

[00:35:12] Charlie Chieppo: Well, I tell you what, Hilary, that was a tough one, but you nailed it. I love it. Thank you so much.

[00:35:20] Thank you so much for joining us today. That was really interesting and enlightening, and I hope it can draw some attention to what is a really serious problem. And it’s great to hear about the sort of proactive things that you’re doing to try to combat it. Thank you.

[00:35:34] Hilary Crow: Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you both today and to be on the podcast.

[00:35:50] Charlie Chieppo: That was a very interesting interview. civics is obviously an extremely important and becoming a very controversial issue in public education. That was, I think, some important information there. And so the tweet of the week is from Education Next from March 29th, and it is about a piece that a good friend of mine and an old boss of mine, Jim Pizer, wrote for Education Next.

[00:36:15] It’s about bringing business leaders back to school. Their retreat from education reform has hurt them. Both sectors. It’s time to re-engage. Certainly, here in Massachusetts, the business community played a big role in a very successful education reform that was done here about 30 years ago now. And I think it’s worth reading, and I would say that Jim is a very good writer as well.

[00:36:37] Albert, it has been great to get to host with you again. Catch up a little bit. I always enjoy it. Thank you so much. Thank you. Yep. Good to be with you this week. And join us again next week. Our guest will be Robert Pinsky, the William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor at Boston University. He was also Poet Warrior of the United States from 1997 to 2000.

[00:36:59] Thanks very much. Join us again next week. See you all later.

This week on The Learning Curve, guest co-hosts University of Arkansas Prof. Albert Cheng and Charlie Chieppo interview U.S. Chamber Foundation VP, Hilary Crow. She discusses the state of K-12 civics, emphasizing the Chamber Foundation’s role in addressing America’s wide civic education deficits. Crow highlights a recent national civics survey, alarming civic literacy gaps, and links between political unrest and our nation’s educational shortcomings in K-12 civics. Ms. Crow also stresses the importance of local engagement and initiatives like the Chamber Foundation’s National Civics Bee.

Stories of the Week:  Albert addressed a video from CBS News on Johnathan Haidt’s new book The Anxious GenerationCharlie reviewed an article from The Hill about wasted COVID relief funds.


Hilary Crow is Vice President of Civics at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Her responsibilities include leading The Civic Trust, an initiative focused on civics literacy, civics at work, and elevating civics as a national priority. As part of this work, Hilary oversees the National Civics Bee, an annual competition aimed at increasing civics literacy among middle school students, their families, and communities. The Bee is currently running in more than 100 communities across 28 states in partnership with state and local chambers of commerce. The Bee will scale to all 50 states by 2026. Hilary earned dual bachelor’s degrees in political science and philosophy from The American University in Washington, D.C.

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