Government classes require in-depth, conceptual reforms

My time in Government was never really an enjoyable experience, stemming mostly from the fact that I often followed news and politics and felt like I generally knew the content that was being taught. However, the last time I took a Government course was in sophomore year, which was two years ago. Now, I must give credit where credit is due. The Government teachers have done a lot in the past two years to transform the Government curriculum from a class where multiple choice assessments were the norm, to one that is starting to resemble an IB class that allows for a lot of interaction with the content on the part of the student. I really believe the government teachers are doing everything they can to try and provide a deep and foundational civics education for our school.

However, an unfortunate by-product of the IB program is that while we receive excellent education in the nuances of some of the most important historical events of our time, it comes at the cost of a comparable education in government. Government is different from history in two ways.

First, it is an abstract concept that requires an understanding of historical context as a baseline of understanding for the intricacies and subtleties. The United States government is a massive entity with almost three million employees and hundreds of different agencies. Understanding the history surrounding the nature of the government is important in understanding its role.

Second, it is one of the most relevant classes that you can take as a high school student. Government has a huge role in our lives, whether it comes from the local, state, or federal level, and as our economy continues to evolve, new industries are popping up daily and having the know-how to deal with the government is becoming a desirable skill for many tech startups dealing with new government regulations.

In a perfect world, I think government would be a senior level course. Government is such a fascinating institution. On one hand there are countless ways that government helps improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. Yet on the other hand it can be a bureaucratic mess. Government is a wonderful place where young people coming out of college can make a difference in the world, but I don’t think the current program of civics education here is ideal for fostering a real interest in government. Both in what is covered and when the course is taught. Making Government a senior level course would allow for a better environment to foster an interest in the subject, as the necessary history has been taught and seniors are more engaged in political activism. As I have said, I highly commend the government teachers for making real progress in improving the course from two years ago. Unfortunately, the cost of IB comes at a price of a quality civics education.

Teacher Counterpoints:

My view is that in the ideal world, this should be a senior level class. But you can’t do that with IB. The issue has always been where to put government in when you have a two year IB history course. I think that most sophomores get it and do a good job, but there is no doubt that government is an abstract subject. It’s not history. It is not telling a story across a historical continuum. Government makes more sense if you understand the history first, and then tackle it.

government teacher Patricia Coppolino


AP covers a lot more content, while IB goes more in depth with less content. We actually looked at adopting AP government for 10th grade, but it just does not align well enough with IB. As someone who has now taught this class for two years, the rigor has improved, but I do think there is more of a deeper understanding of the content and I think the EK model allows for that.

government teacher Sean Rolon