What do public speaking, civil debate, history and community planning have in common? They can all be categorized under the umbrella of civics education. But unfortunately, across America, civics knowledge is on a steady decline.

Data shows that nearly half of the nation’s citizens can’t name all three branches of government, and 76 percent of 8th graders score below proficient in civics education. 

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is determined to change that.

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To stem the tide of this dismal trend and re-engage students, we are partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and local chambers of commerce across the state to host the first-ever Pennsylvania Civics Bee.

On June 15, a group of middle school students from across Pennsylvania will take to the stage at Commonwealth Charter Academy in Harrisburg to flex their civics knowledge, compete for prizes, and — most importantly — energize our community with a sense of civic pride. These students paved their way to the state competition by finishing in the top three at local competitions across Pennsylvania, where they shared original ideas for how they would use civics to improve their communities. And when these finalists stand on stage together, it won’t just remind us of how impressive these young people are, but also how critical it is to our ongoing national dialogue and future that they’re engaged.

Through the Pennsylvania Civics Bee, we are encouraging new generations of Americans to learn about civics, get engaged, and become active, informed members of their communities. Civics education isn’t just about teaching history — it’s focused on educating people about our nation’s democratic processes and how to best apply them, along with the rights and obligations of responsible citizens.   

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.

That’s why the PA Chamber is honored to be hosting this incredible group of students who are demonstrating what it means to be civic leaders. Their talents and passions deserve to be celebrated and shared, as we encourage up-and-coming generations to follow in their footsteps.

The PA Chamber applauds these student finalists for making it to the first-ever Pennsylvania Civics Bee, and we thank every student who submitted an essay at the regional bees hosted earlier this year. 

There are and always will be problems to solve in our communities — and these Civics Bee finalists know utilizing civics is one critical piece of puzzle in shaping a stronger future for all of us. 

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.” Whether the participants in the 2023 Pennsylvania Civics Bee are seasoned civics experts or not, the Pennsylvania Civics Bee serves as a “Civics 101” class to familiarize everyone with civics education, remind us of the important role civics plays in our society, and encourage us to work together to resolve the pressing issues of our day. 

Luke Bernstein is president and CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry.

2 thoughts on “Luke Bernstein: Pennsylvania Civics Bee will showcase, inspire civics knowledge among new generations of leaders”

  1. Great! I hope they learn about the threat posed by a presidental candidate who openly advocates for the “termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” in response to losing their last election. (His own words).

    I hope they learn that everyone, including ex-presidents are subject to the same set of laws in this country.

    I hope they learn about the establishment clause forbidding state sanctioned religion.

    I hope they learn about the clear cut constitutional process for the president nominate scotus judges regardless of when elections are.

    I hope they learn that the first amendment prohibits the government from targeting individual companies because they’ve expressed political opinions they don’t like.

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