Advocates of civic education try to soothe parents' fears about the state's new requirement for high school civics courses.
Having convinced lawmakers and the governor to support the civics class requirement for high school, Maryam Judar of the Citizen Advocacy Center says the next challenge is assuaging concerns parents have about discussing politics and government in public schools.
"They're afraid that teachers are going to infiltrate and teach the kids their own political belief systems," Judar said. "We know that good teachers that are well-trained know not to do that."
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The law specifically requires the courses include discussion of controversial issues.
All the advocates speaking at a Chicago panel hosted by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform expressed optimism about the long-term benefits of requiring civics courses, including increased participation in elections and the political process.
"It's fair to say that our civic health is ailing," said Shawn Healy, a civics scholar at the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation. "If you look at millennials in Illinois, we're 47th in the country when it comes to our young people voting regularly in our local elections."
Healy says around 60 percent of Illinois high schools required civics and government courses before the law passed, but he's not sure if those existing classes meet the requirements of the new law, which goes into effect for the 2016-17 school year.