In its final 255-page report to Congress last month entitled Inspired to Serve, the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued a compelling call to expand civic education and service-learning over the next 10 years to ensure young people have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to participate in civic life and understand the importance of service.
The National Youth Leadership Council is pleased to have been a contributor to the National Commission’s report process, providing both written and in-person testimony, coordinating focus groups and presentation opportunities, as well as providing the National Commission opportunities to hear directly from youth and the service-learning community over the past year.
The final report includes two major recommendations that will elevate civics to the same level as math and reading in the Nation’s Report Card.
- Establish a Civic Education Fund at the Department of Education to provide up to $200 million of grants for teacher development and the development of civic education, applied civics, and service-learning programs; eligible entities would include State and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, community-based organizations, and nonprofit organizations.
- Establish a Service-Learning Fund within the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to issue $250 million in grants annually, with 20% for K-college service-learning programs; 40% for grades 6-12 Summer of Service programs; and 40% for grades 9-12 Semester of Service programs.
The National Youth Leadership Council supports the Commission’s recommendation to Congress in the form of the Inspire to Serve Act of 2020 and the challenge to our Nation to cultivate a culture of service so that:
“By 2031—the 70th anniversary of President Kennedy’s call for Americans to serve their Nation—the Commission envisions that 5 million Americans will begin participating in military, national, or public service each year.”
To achieve this vision, it will be necessary for K-12 administrators, educators, and students to take an active role in advancing service-learning through actions, such as:
- Encouraging federal investment in civic education and service-learning by contacting members of Congress in support of the Inspire to Service Act 2020.
- Increasing access to high-quality service-learning experiences to foster a culture of service in which Americans can identify how their own strengths, skills, and interests can contribute to the public good by addressing needs in their communities.
- Supporting service-learning best practices including the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice.
- Incorporating service-learning within school curricula to prepare students as civically informed and engaged citizens.
- Investing in service-learning professional development to gain and improve the knowledge and skills of educators to ensure quality practice and implementation.
“The support of K-12 administrators, educators, and students is going to be key to the success of expanding quality service-learning so that ‘service becomes a passage to adulthood’ as called for by the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service,” said Amy Meuers, CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council. “By expanding quality service-learning practice to students across K-12 systems, we ensure students understand the rights and obligations of being a citizen of our Nation. We know from experience that service-learning is a proven strategy to engage students in their education when they understand that their service is authentic, has substance over time, and can be understood in the context of academic or civic content. It is time for service-learning to expand in classrooms across the Nation to fulfill the timely recommendations in this report.”
For more than 35 years, the National Youth Leadership Council has supported the advancement service-learning in K-12 education by empowering teachers, transforming classrooms, and engaging students by providing high-quality service-learning content, customized professional development, resources, and programs including the National Service-Learning Conference and Service-Learning Network. To learn more about service-learning and NYLC, visit www.nylc.org.