In 2013, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or Circle, published a report from the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge Releases titled, “All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement.” The study was done by a bipartisan group of distinguished scholarly experts from diverse disciplines and institutions to study aspects of youth political engagement. The report looks at a variety of topics, such as the current state of civic education, informed voting, and political engagement of the nation’s youth. Findings are based, in part, on data collected from more than 6,000 young adults and 720 high school civics or government teachers, and an analysis of all states’ voting and education laws. Here are a few of released findings:
- 8 out of 52 states includes social studies in their assessment of school performance; only 10 out of 52 states require civics or government teachers to be certified in those subjects.
- About 1/4th of civics or government teachers surveyed think parents would object to bringing politics into the classroom, and are less likely to incorporate it into class work.
- Opportunities for civic learning and engagement are highly unequal.
- With only like-minded media (from social media) and no opposing views or discussions, young people could see greater polarization within politics and opinions.
- Levels of knowledgeable engagement by America’s youth remains low.
Over the course of the past several decades, a steady decline in political participation and growing levels of political distrust has been seen, especially within the youth. According to U.S. Census data, 49.6% of 18-24-year-olds voted in the presidential election. By 1996, that number had decreased by almost a third to 32.4 percent, and the numbers are only getting smaller. Looking at the data, many assume young Americans are disengaged and apathetic from American politics. However, across the country, new student and youth organized groups are emerging to increase the political participation of their peers.
For example, in 2008, a group of students formed an organization called Young Americans For Liberty with the goal of spreading education of libertarian values, such as freedom of speech and the emphasization of the U.S. Constitution in the American government, and recently, criminal justice reform. Proving its label as one of the largest conservative and libertarian youth organizations in the county, Young Americans for Liberty (YAF) welcomed over 400 students to their annual 4-day national convention. In the last ten years, YAF has grown to nearly 300,000 members.