(Erlanger, KY)-As the presidential election draws near, the nation’s attention on civic involvement reaches a fevered pitch. Media outlets across the country discuss daily the much anticipated voter turnout. As usual, most pundits expect participation by young Americans in this year’s election to be low and numerous theories sprout up as to why 18-to 24-year olds feel disenfranchised from the political process. Kentucky leaders recently met to determine how this trend could be improved through a sharper focus on civic literacy.
Secretary of State Trey Grayson, Senator Jack Westwood, Representative Tanya Pullin, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Administrative Office of the Courts, as well as other national and state community leaders on October 5th, 2004 to discuss the state of civic literacy among Kentucky’s youth. The Summit was hosted in conjunction with the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Literacy at Northern Kentucky University (NKU).
The Civics Summit represents the beginning of a multi-year effort that will determine a strategy for enhancing long-term civic engagement and civic literacy within the Commonwealth and will recommend a plan for improving civic engagement and literacy.
“This summit represents an excellent start to reversing the declining participation by young Kentuckians in the democratic process,” said Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
The Summit featured national experts on civic engagement including 9/11 Commission Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton and Director of the Campaign to Promote Civics Education Ted McConnell. After presentations from different civic programs across the Commonwealth, summit attendees received a preliminary assessment on the state of civic education in the state of Kentucky. Participants ended the day with a discussion on ways to increase civic engagement among youth so that young Kentuckians can actively participate in all areas of civic life.
“We are thrilled with the interest that so many Kentuckians have taken in civics education, engagement, and literacy,” stated Secretary Grayson. “The results of this summit will allow us to present legislators with a path to improved civic participation among Kentucky’s youngest citizens.”
The Summit is in part a result of the Annual Congressional Conference on Civic Education where more than 300 delegates from across the country came together to discuss civic involvement in the United States. The conference vowed to “take action to reaffirm the historic and civic mission of our schools … and to lead aggressive state campaigns to expand and improve civic education in the nation’s schools.”
Kentucky is one of only five states to take any formal action since the conclusion of the 2003 national conference and is one of only three states to pass legislation making Kentucky a leader in the national civics movement. Kentucky’s delegation will return to the 2nd Congressional Conference December 4-6, 2004 to share its initial findings from this year's work. Delegation members will include Secretary Grayson, Senator Westwood, Representative Pullin, Dr. Deborah Williamson of the Administrative Office of the Courts and Natalie Stiligtz with the Kentucky Department of Education. The Congressional Conference, which is scheduled for the next four years, receives bi-partisan support from Congress and its sponsors include the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Center for Civic Education, the Center on Congress at Indiana University.
“Kentucky is lucky to have such great leaders who care about the future civic engagement of young people.” said Grayson referring to Kentucky’s delegation and the Kentucky General Assembly. “We look forward to working in a bi-partisan manner with the Legislature to improve Kentucky’s civic literacy. I am thankful for all that the members have done and will do in the future.”
The Office of the Secretary of State will present a report to the Kentucky General Assembly before the start of the 2005 session that details the results of the Summit and will recommend further action.
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