They may not realize it yet, but the 3.8 million kindergarten students who arrived in U.S. schools this month, including the adorable Democracy Prep students in the video below, will be a part of history. They are the Class of 2026. With a little luck and diligence they graduate from high school just days before the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Some current trends bode well for the Class of 2026. More than four-fifths of today’s kindergarteners will likely be high school graduates by the time the U.S. turns 250. By the time they graduate, the kids in this video should be part of an unprecedented wave of students of color on college campuses. On July 4, 2026 they will hopefully be enjoying their last summer before beginning college.
But unfortunately, when today’s kindergarteners attend their graduation parties and celebrate Independence Day 2026, there is little reason to believe they will be any better prepared for a lifetime of active, engaged citizenship than are today’s high school graduates. Civics, once at the heart of public education, has taken a backseat to preparation for college and career. With the recent decision to indefinitely postpone NAEP Civics and History testing in 4th and 12th grade, civic education is heading in the wrong direction, becoming less of a priority at exactly the wrong moment.
There is still time to reverse this trend before today’s four- and five-year olds reach voting age. On this Constitution Day, CitizenshipFirst, a civic education initiative of Democracy Prep, is leading a call to revive the American tradition of public education as preparation for citizenship.
Step one is a campaign we’re calling Challenge 2026. It’s a simple proposition:
By the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and our nation’s founding, every high school graduate should be able to pass the U.S. citizenship exam–the basic test of civics, history and government that would-be citizens must take and pass to become naturalized citizens. At present, 98% of those who take the test pass. However fewer than two-thirds of native-born children can do the same.
We’re a long, long way from ensuring that every one of our children has the civic knowledge, skills and desire to be a fully informed and engaged citizen. Rebuilding our common store of civic knowledge is a critical first step. If you agree that every American deserves to know the basic of civics and citizenship, and that every graduate of a U.S. high school should be able to take and pass the U.S. Citizenship Test, we urge you to support Challenge 2026 and add your name. The Class of 2026 deserves nothing less.
Happy Constitution Day!