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Surveys have shown that Americans know little about the U.S. government and Constitution. The studies have prompted the Virginia General Assembly to revive a commission studying ways to bolster civics education.
In a Newsweek survey published recently, 38 percent of Americans surveyed failed the test that immigrants take to become citizens, while 70 percent did not know the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. In addition, 43 percent of those answering the questions didn't know that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.
Concerned about those trends, Senator Chap Peterson sponsored a bill creating the Commission which discusses teaching methods that go beyond rote learning:
"We talked about some new techniques that would open up the process and would have students feel more engaged, a more participatory atmosphere, bringing candidates in, having debates in front of school classes, things of that nature," he says.
They've also planned annual statewide conferences for civics teachers in the fall and 8th-graders in the spring.