New Indiana law requires civics class in middle school

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana lawmakers are working to make sure middle schoolers have a better understanding of government. 

A new state law will eventually require students in grades 6 through 8 to take a semester-long civics course. 

Currently, Indiana schools aren’t required to teach government classes until high school.

State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) said he believes that’s not early enough.

“In having taught government to seniors, that was a little late at times,” said Cook, a former educator.

According to Cook, who wrote the new law, the classes would cover topics like the three branches of government, elections and the U.S. Constitution.

“In this time when we’ve had some struggles to begin with, I think a basic citizenship understanding of our responsibilities and our knowledge of our governmental system is imperative,” Cook said.

The law requires a commission of school leaders, government officials and other experts to help state education officials come up with the standards for the course.

“Our students today are very informed,” said Derek Arrowood, superintendent of Hamilton Heights School Corporation. “And I think they often have a lot of questions about why and how and what is going on in government.”

Arrowood said he believes middle schoolers are ready to learn about government. Some students and parents agree.

“It’ll probably make your senior gov. class easier since you know the judicial branch and the other branches,” said Peter Jalaie, a rising high school senior.

“I think they’ll be making better decisions, using good judgment and being more open-minded as they go into high school subjects,” said Mary Ellen Lappin, a grandparent and former teacher.

Meanwhile, Cook said he hopes the course not only gives kids a better understanding of their government, but also encourages more participation as adults.

“I hope they’ll become much better informed and engaged citizens as they grow up,” he said.

The law gives the commission a year to come up with the requirements for the course.

The civics class requirement will take effect for students entering 6th grade in fall 2023.

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