- Writers Michael J. Broyde, a professor of law at Emory Law School, and Ira Bedzow, the director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program at New York Medical College, write in an Education Week piece that legal reasoning skills should be taught alongside comprehension and reading in K-12 schools.
- The two believe that integrating legal thinking into the classroom, particularly at a young age, helps children develop skills to work productively through concerns, rather than react when presented with arguments where they don’t agree.
- Legal reasoning may help boost students' ability to look at multiple sides of an argument, and how they approach their own schoolwork: understanding there isn’t always one solution, one answer or one point of view.
Increasing civic engagement among students has been a growing focus for schools and districts. The New York City Department of Education, for example is allowing students to have a say in how they would spend $2,000 of their school's budget as a way to bring them into the educational process directly. While some teachers have found success by weaving direct civic engagement into their curriculum, even changing the law as a result, experts have found that in most classrooms across the U.S., civics education is waning.
Educators who want to make small shifts toward adding civic involvement, or add lessons that encourage this behavior, may want to look at opportunities online. Free resources are available from respected organizations including Khan Academy, iCivics, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and the Bill of Right Institute, which pulls from primary sources including the U.S. Constitution.
Administrators and curriculum leaders can also encourage civics education by supporting and sponsoring extracurricular programs, such as debate, journalism and Model United Nations programs. Besides sparking engagement, debate programs have been shown to have an impact, in particular, on high-risk students by helping to boost their chances of graduating from high school, and being more prepared for college.
Debate programs, which can be found in both middle and high schools, also help teach students to look at both sides of an argument, and examine the details of an issue rather than seeing it through the lens of one position being right and another wrong. This ability, to consider the nuances of an issue, is one students can carry with them throughout life.