What Allderdice Thinks about Youth Civic Engagement

On June 11, 2020, Pittsburgh Allderdice High School held a sit-in protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

(Pittsburgh City Paper)

On June 11, 2020, Pittsburgh Allderdice High School held a sit-in protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Civics is one of the most essential classes students take during their time at Allderdice. Civics is the study of how the United States government functions, the rights citizens possess and how citizens can exercise those rights. Starting in the 1960s, a typical school schedule offered civics classes. That practice continues today. The subject itself is often called one of the most underrated courses, for the simple reason that the knowledge it provides sustains an evolving democratic society. Civics education leads to youth involvement in political and social issues. Today, we see significant youth involvement with issues including the Black Lives Matter movement, the Women March, and environmental protests (to name a few). Students knowing their rights will impact the future of our political climate and how this generation will function in the future in general. 

A study from Axios found that only 56% of Americans can name the three branches of the federal government, so for that percentage to increase-schools must prioritize civic education. Allderdice students and teachers engage in much civic participation, through protests, clubs, volunteering, and campaigning.

Civics Teacher Mr. Hoffer says of civics education, “It’s vital. People have to understand and need to understand the principles of our government and how it’s supposed to work for our society to function properly.” 

He adds, “We have to be focused on what the actual context of civics is, and not bring in individual political agendas. It is important that when people learn about civics, they are as impartial as possible and avoid political agendas’.”

AP United States Government and Politics teacher Mrs. Halloran says, “If we want to maintain a representative democracy, we cannot move forward if we don’t know how our government works, to keep our public officials accountable.” 

When asked if schools should mandate a civics course, she responds, “Yes. It should be mandatory for every student, and I do believe there should be a founding structure. They should know the three branches and how our elections work.”

Beatrice Kuhn, a sophomore at Allderdice, agrees. “I think it’s really important today more than ever, given how involved people in our society are and being educated on our rights, and what we can do as citizens and constituents.”

Social Studies teacher Ms. Castro says, “People can lie and the government can lie, and if you don’t know about it – you can’t do anything about it. For instance, if you’re pulled over, what’s the one you must give the police. Your name, but that’s it. But if you don’t know that, you could be tricked. It’s important to know those fundamental things.” 

She continues, “Civics is taught unevenly because in certain places it is not as emphasized as in other parts of the country. I wish it would be taught later on. Since I was little, civics was taught in ninth grade. For a lot of students, it seems too far. I think it doesn’t seem as relevant until they’re older [voting age].” 

Bryce Lowden, a sophomore at Allderdice says, “Learning more about the inner workings of the society we live in is beneficial to our day-to-day lives.” He adds, “…schools should work to make it a more engaging class.” 

Castro also believes it is just as crucial to take the knowledge one learns into the classroom into the larger world. She takes part in protests and sit-ins with students. “I think the more you encourage students in the society to protest or engage with the BLM [movement], the better…something I emphasize is that knowledge is power.”

Students need to be given the educational tools to build a better tomorrow. Youth engagement is a testament to how the government can be reimagined in future years.