Nate Breen represents local school boards on the Wyoming State Board of Education. He spent his 36-year career teaching high school history in Cheyenne, 14 of which were focused on civics. Last year, he began working with the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) to create a recommendation for more robust civics education programs in high school classrooms across the U.S.
“Our public education system was founded in large part to preserve the democratic republic,” said Breen. “Ensuring that citizens understand basic American rights and ideals, constitutional law and key founding documents, how to balance individual rights and the needs of the nation, and can think critically and productively about politics and policy, is essential. This is the heart of civics education.”
Breen believes No Child Left Behind left civic virtue and civic responsibilities behind. “As a result, many of our students are not prepared to perform their basic civic duties and don’t understand their rights or the importance of community participation,” said Breen. “We’ve also lost our way in terms of civility in debate. NASBE can raise awareness about the importance of civics education – and more importantly, civics readiness when students graduate.”
After Breen presented his case at the fall NASBE conference, NASBE issued an official recommendation for state boards across the U.S. to consider how they might drive civics readiness for all high school graduates. Breen also met with the Wyoming Department of Education last fall to share recommendations for high school civics education standards.
Concerned that few people understand the basic principles of the constitutional government of the U.S., including rights, functions of the three branches, checks and balances, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 440 in April this year, expressing the sense of the Senate about the importance of effective civic and government education programs in schools in the U.S.
Breen believes an enhanced civics education program in Wyoming and beyond would increase civic engagement (voting, community and school involvement, and knowledge of how to engage in civic activities), ensure students would be able to demonstrate, through assessment, a comprehension of the history and ideals of the American Republic, and appropriately apply the ideals surrounding the Founding Documents of the nation.
Throughout his teaching career, Breen was involved in We the People and the Center for Civic Education. In 2009, he was named American Civic Education High School Teacher of the year. He is an active member of NASBE and sits on the Public Education Positions committee. As a working member of the civics committee, he presented at the NASBE conference last fall. Breen is also a trustee for Laramie County School District #1.