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In 2012, CIRCLE convened a scholarly, non-partisan commission to investigate data on young Americans’ civic knowledge and participation, and to issue recommendations for how to improve both. The commission was formed in response to controversies about then-recent voting laws (such as photo-ID laws), as well as extant debates about civic education in K-12 schools and in higher education. However, in light of the myriad interconnected conditions and influences on young people's civic knowledge and participation, the commission took a broader view, and its recommendations touch on a range of issues across the field of civic education and engagement broadly defined.

The commission's work was largely based on original and exclusive CIRCLE research, including:

  • Three separate surveys of young people conducted in July, October, and November 2012 with a total of 7,000+ respondents
  • A 2013 national survey of more than 700 high school government and social studies teachers
  • A comprehensive scan of states' civic education policies and teacher certification requirements
  • Interviews with key stakeholders in the civic education and youth engagement fields

Report and Recommendations

In October 2013, that Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge released its report "All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement."

The report makes a series of recommendations for policymakers, educators, community organizations, parents, and other stakeholders. Crucially, as its title suggests, it emphasizes the need for collaboration among these and other institutional actors to strengthen youth civic education and engagement.

Among the Commission's primary recommendations:

  • Implement facilitative election laws such as automatic voter registration, same-day registration, and pre-registration
  • Lower the voting age to 17 in state and local elections
  • Implement state standards for civics that focus on developing civic skills, such as deliberation and collaboration, rather than memorizing facts
  • Support and protect teachers so they can incorporate discussions of contemporary and controversial political issues in the classroom
  • Increase the scale and quality of national and community service programs, with an emphasis on making them available to non-college youth
  • Increase support for youth who are conducting community research and producing local journalism or other forms of civic media
  • Strengthen standards and curricula for digital media literacy

While the Commission's report is now nearly seven years old, its recommendations remain relevant and they continue to inform CIRCLE's research and advocacy to this day. In fact, much of our subsequent and ongoing work on broadening youth voting, on equitable K-12 civic learning, and on youth in media for democracy builds on the Commission's work.

For the full set of data, analyses, and recommendations, and for additional information on the Commission members and supporting organization, see the full report.