Yesterday I traveled to Charlottesville to chair the meeting of the State Civics Education Commission at the Miller Center on Old Ivy Road — about a mile west of the Main Grounds.
The meeting was a follow-up from our March 30-31 symposium in Montpelier, where we talked about revamping the state’s civics and governmental courses to make them more exciting and relevant to today’s youngsters.
Yesterday, we had several speakers, including Professor Mike McDonald of George Mason University who spoke about the concept of “pre-registration” which allows 16-17 year old students to register to vote — prior to their 18th birthday. The advantage is that they can then participate in elections as volunteers at polling sites prior to their actual ability to vote.
The Commission endorsed the idea. It also endorsed the idea of a statewide leadership conference for middle-school students who are selected for their interest in politics and government. (Luckily we have a private sponsor interested in helping us find the $$ for such a conference).
Lastly, we reviewed several of our recommendations from Montpelier, including creating a “Lab School” for government, updating the 12th grade Government curriculum and establishing guidelines for School Boards to discuss political topics and invite candidates for discussion and debate.
I will be contacting the Superintendent of Public Instruction on some of these concepts. Others will require legislation in 2011.
Finally, we will be hosting the annual Civics Summit for civics and government teachers on October 7, 2010 at the State Capitol. I’m looking for a star speaker to bring in a large audience. Let me know if you have an idea. (think low price tag)