When Government Shuts Down, We're Lying to Children, Says Civics Expert

"It's terrible civic education," says CIRCLE's director.

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The government shutdown hasn't exactly been a lesson in good government.
The government shutdown hasn't exactly been a lesson in good government.

The government shutdown is more than just a temporary bummer, says Peter Levine, the director of CIRCLE -- the youth vote-oriented Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. It could turn off legions of future voters too.

"It's terrible civic education," he said. "So all across America kids are reading in civics textbooks about how the government is supposed to work and they're seeing it not work that way at all and it's telling them that the whole story about government that we teach them is a lie and we have to address that," Levine said as he introduced new research Wednesday at the National Press Club.

[READ: Tourists Take Over Closed Lincoln Memorial]

Besides the shutdown being not the best teachable moment, Levine outlined why it's so hard for young people to get a good political education today. "It's harder to educate in citizenship when the political debate is confusing, alienating and polarizing."

CIRCLE surveyed young people across the country for its latest report and researchers found that even writing the polling questions was tough, Levine said. "We had a tremendously hard time writing a survey instrument because it was extremely difficult to tell where the candidates stood...the debates were about, 'you stand for this,' 'no I don't,'" Levine said. "Writing politically neutral questions was very difficult and the difficulty we felt is a confusion that our young people experience," he concluded.

More News:

  • The (Few) Bright Spots of the Government Shutdown
  • Tourism Imperiled as Shutdown Closes Monuments, Parks
  • The Lincoln Memorial and Other Vandalized Monuments