High schoolers can test their civics savvy

SPOONER - The Wisconsin Civics Games could be coming to a school near you. That’s the hope of Linda Zillmer, of Birchwood, who will be introducing the Wisconsin Civics Games to the public in a presentation Tuesday, April 23, at 6 p.m,. at Tracks Bar and Family Dining, W7916 Carlton Rd, Spooner.
She attended the finals of the inaugural Wisconsin Civics Games competition March 30 at the State Capitol in Madison, where a team of high schoolers from Platteville won the state championship, including $2,000 college scholarships for each of the team members. She will show photos and video from the competition, along with samples of the civics questions the students tackled.
The Wisconsin Civics Games were founded by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation, the League of Women Voters and others to help improve student knowledge of how our American government works at all levels – local, county, state and federal. A 2017 state law requires Wisconsin high school students to correctly answer at least 65 of 100 questions found on the U.S. citizenship exam in order to graduate. The Civics Games are intended to make learning about civics more fun and engaging for students.
Zillmer has been active in local government and regularly attends local government and school meetings. She sees the Civics Games as a means to build citizenship knowledge and engagement, and create better civics curriculum in schools. “Understanding government has to start with education in schools and continue through adulthood. I’m hopeful that if programs like the Civics Games help young people better understand our government, then they can help adults be more familiar with how government works too,” Zillmer said. “People generally have more exposure to what’s going on with state and national government because of news media. Local governments, like towns and counties, don’t get as much attention, yet that’s the level that affects our lives directly every day. And don’t confuse civics with politics, because it’s so much broader,” she said.
.According to the WNA Foundation, young adults vote at lower rates than older adults, and less than a quarter of all 12th-graders were proficient in civics education. Eve Galanter, a foundation board member, says the Civics Games raise awareness of how civics education and engagement are critical to the well-being of the local communities, the state and the nation.
More than 40 students representing 11 high schools that advanced through regional competition faced off in the Civics Games finals. A total of 30 schools across the state participated, and the hope is that several more, including schools from this area of the state, will participate in future Civics Games.
State Reps. John Macco (R-De Pere), Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) were judges for the finals. Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack spoke to the students at the competition.
In a written statement, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor told the students: ”No cause is closer to my heart than that of encouraging young people like yourselves to further your civic educations. I strongly believe that the future of our nation depends upon your ability to practice democratic principles as thoughtful, informed citizens and public servants. Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what sort of government he and his fellow framers had created. Dr. Franklin famously replied, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ By working to expand your civic knowledge in preparation for this tournament, you have begun the important undertaking of keeping our republic strong and vibrant.”
Zillmer’s presentation is sponsored by the Democratic Party of Washburn County.

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