Active Civics


American youth are required to take driver education courses in order to operate motor vehicles, but for two generations, they have not received adequate education to understand and participate fully in our system of government.

Many communities, organizations, unions, school districts are beginning to address this lack at a critical time in American history, restoring civics education to schools, teaching and training young Americans about what is rightfully theirs: participation, responsibility and the vote. All high schools in California should provide robust and equitable civic classes to all. This should include classroom instruction, service learning, involvement in community based civic engagement, organizing methods, critical analysis of current events and participation in government.

Why Civics Education and Participation are Important:

  • For democracy to thrive, we need people who care about the common good. Civic engagement and participation are how we change laws and systems that affect all.
  • Unlike previous generations, Americans today—particularly our youth—receive little or no education or experience in civic engagement via schools.
  • Civic engagement has been shown to positively affect families, communities, education, quality of life and health.
  • Civic engagement is about learning to be advocates for a stronger democracy.

For more information and to learn what you can do to help promote active civics classes in schools throughout California, call us today! 510 434 3988

Power of Democracy

Established by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, and Chief justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, California’s Power of Democracy works with judicial, school, and community members to improve civic awareness, learning and engagement in California.

July of 2012, Superintendent Torlakson and Chief Justice Tani created a Steering Committee, which is chaired by Hon. Judith D. McConnell, Chair, Administrative Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District. In 2014 the task force produced a report based on input from 600 individuals of 7 regions in the state, which offers some initial assessments on the status of civic learning in our state, starting with making the case for the need:

  • Just 8% of eligible 18-24 year-old voters voted in California’s last mid-term election.
  • California is 38th of 50 states in Civic Engagement
  • Only 26% of Americans can name all three branches of government
  • 31% of Americans could not name any of the three branches of government

Key findings from the CA Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning

The report establishes basic parameters around “what works” in civic education. It also highlights that only some California K-12 students have access to effective civic education, and that there is very limited assessment of the outcomes of that learning. The report establishes that the California education system has a central role in preparing all K-12 students for participation in our democracy, starting in elementary school and continuing through high school, and targets specific needs to assure equity and access across the civic engagement gap that exists principally for students of color and low-income backgrounds.

  • Teacher Professional Development
  • State Content Standards
  • Curriculum Frameworks
  • Curriculum Resources
  • Assessment
  • Accountability
  • Rewards and Incentives

The Freedom Center aims to contribute to this body of work, through creation of policy, advancement of professional development opportunities, continuation of experimentation with active civic learning assessments, development of curriculum resources, and student advocacy in legislative initiatives related to civic learning. Towards these ends we are primary partners in two active learning collaboration efforts: on the west-coast, the To Us You Matter: Civic Engagement Campaign with the institute fro Community leadership, and in the State of California, the California State Legislative funded Youth and Family Civic Engagement Initiative with the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Both collaborations are aimed at increasing high school voter education and registration, assuming active civics classes for all students K-12, and through promoting hubs of community based organizations to assure civic engagement opportunities for all students.

Through these collaborations, and expanded relations with members of our k-12 regional schools and school districts, and our states judiciary at the Superior Court, Appellate Court and Supreme Court and regional jurisdictions, we intend to both contribute and learn from our state’s Power of Democracy efforts.


National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement, Six Proven Practices for Effective Civic Learning

National Action Civic Collaborative

League of Women Voters, The State We’re In: Washington, Civic Education Text

Council for Public Legal Education (CPLE)

California Power of Democracy

The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE)

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