Half of the 7th grade year is dedicated to the civics strand At the seventh grade level, Alabama expects their students to “assume” responsibilities in their family, school, and “community roles” through “opportunities to apply civic knowledge to problem-based learning situations in the community.” However, within the actual course of study, these opportunities are not clearly identified and seem to be dependent on the local school district. Without specificity regarding the ways in which these learning outcomes will be achieved, it is left to the individual educator’s discretion to choose contexts appropriate for middle-school students to act responsibly within their community roles. Though the approach at the middle school level seems at first to be oriented around participatory goals, the diction of the learning outcomes does not reflect any highest-order thinking imperatives to create or produce original work.
At the middle school level, students also seem to have no influence on the context or content of the participatory elements of learning, which disconnects civic learning from students’ actual lives and positions them in passive civic roles, rather than equipping them with the skills and agency to lead initiatives and make decisions. The 7th grade course standards also demonstrate a character-orientation with a focus on celebrating traits that are “beneficial to individuals and society” such as honesty, courage, compassion, civility, and loyalty. This course of study describes civic responsibilities as: “respect for rights of others, self-discipline, negotiation, compromise, fiscal responsibility, respect for law, patriotism, participation in political process.” Within this middle-school standard, there is an inherent assumption of patriotism and a potentially nationalist positioning of students as loyal citizens of the nation. There does not appear to be room for student input or dissent of any form.