The Importance of Civic Education (CSU Graduation Requirements in United States History, Constitution, and American Institutions) for both Native and Transfer Students


RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) reaffirm its commitment to the principle that all graduates of our institution should demonstrate an understanding of “American democracy and of the society in which they live” so that they may “contribute to that society as responsible and constructive citizens”; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU recognize that a pragmatic consequence of compliance with SB 1440 means CSU departmental and program requirements may come into conflict with statewide graduation requirements as well as local institutional graduation requirements.  Although there are many possible solutions that will be explored on the campuses of the CSU, one possible consequence is that the current full version of what is considered as adequate for completion of a baccalaureate degree may not be realized for SB 1440 students; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU request that the faculty and advisors of the California Community Colleges (CCC) encourage transfer AA students to take courses, prior to their transfer to the CSU, that are congruent with graduating at 60 units, and which also fulfill CSU Title 5 graduation requirements (including American Institutions) or other local CSU degree completion requirements; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That copies of this resolution be distributed to the Chancellor, to the Board of Trustees; to all campus senates; to the current Chairs of CSU History, Political Science, and Ethnic Studies Departments; to the Chancellor’s General Education Advisory Committee; Chancellor of CCC, and the Academic Senate of the California Community Colleges.

RATIONALE: The intent of the resolution is to maximize student success and desirable educational outcomes in an efficient manner.

For decades the California State University has maintained a requirement (in Title 5 administrative law) for all CSU graduates to “acquire knowledge and skills that will help them to comprehend the workings of American democracy and of the society in which they live, to enable them to contribute to that society as responsible and constructive citizens” (Title 5 40404). At the present time, most students transferring into the CSU already have these graduation requirements complete (often within GE) upon admission.

An informed citizenry is necessary in American democracy, but mounting evidence shows that “most individual voters are abysmally ignorant of even very basic political information” i.

The passing last Autumn of SB 1440 – a measure designed to streamline
transfers from the California Community Colleges to the CSU – has enabled the creation of “Transfer AA” degrees from the CCC system; the CCC system,v however, has not explicitly included the CSU Title 5 American Institutions requirements as a part of these newly created transfer degrees. SB 1440 does not exclude statewide requirements from inclusion in transfer AA degrees.

The CSU Board of Trustees is considering changes in the Title 5“American Institutions” requirement that will enable (but not necessarily require) the Chancellor, Presidents and “appropriate campus authorities” to waive the American Institutions requirement for certain majors and groups. It is widely perceived that these potential changes to Title 5 are closely tied to “unit caps” explicitly required for SB1440 compliance. This produces an unfortunate situation where the American Institutions requirements is perceived as the
primary means by which degree unit reductions (seen as required to comply with SB1440) will be met.

Approved Unanimously – May 5-6, 2011

i See for example Ilya Somin, “When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: How Political Ignorance Threatens Democracy” (Policy Analysis No. 525, September 22, 2004.) “In this paper I review the overwhelming evidence that the American electorate fails to meet even minimal criteria for adequate voter knowledge” (p. 2.) See also Andrew Romano, “How Dumb Are We? Newsweek gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship Test–38% failed. The country’s future is imperiled by our ignorance,” Newsweek March 28 and April 4, 2011.

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