American schools have all but abandoned civics education, and they have the test scores to prove it: Only 22% of eighth graders are proficient in civics, according to the latest Nation’s Report Card

These students are just four years away from adulthood and the full rights and responsibilities that citizenship confers. The failing school system is churning out a generation of voters that has no idea what their elected officials are supposed to do. Each time that person casts a ballot, he or she is trying to hire someone for a job without the slightest clue of the job description. The outcomes could be dire, too, if jury trials become populated by jurors who don’t understand our rights and freedoms. 

This country cannot afford to wait for the public schools to get their act together, at least not while teacher unions and their political allies are more concerned with teaching CRT and DEI than A-B-C. The Daniels Fund and the U.S. Chamber Foundation have stepped up with a way to help kids learn: The National Civics Bee, which quizzes 6th, 7th, and 8th graders on their knowledge of how the government works. 

Now in its third year, the competition is held at the state level by state Chambers of Commerce, and the winners go on to compete for the national title. The Civics Bee’s greatest advantage is also its biggest challenge: It operates independently from the schools. This means that the Bee is not subject to the far-left progressive politics that permeate a great many schools, but it also means students won’t be automatically enrolled to compete.

Parents would do well to consider quizzing their kids on what they know about the country they will one day inherit. And if the results are less than solid, parents have a moral duty to step in where schools have failed. The Civics Bee can be a motivating way to get students to engage with a subject they may not have encountered at school.

Any sort of “bee,” whether spelling, geography, or civics, turns the subject into a game. Gamification of learning has shown remarkable success in helping students retain information, as well as helping motivate them to learn and engage with the subject matter. It gives students a chance to compete and be recognized by their peers for their academic abilities. Plus, it gives outstanding students a chance to be awarded prize money for their achievement. The winners of the Civics Bee will have much to be proud of, but the point of the exercise is not only to reward standout students, it’s to engage kids who otherwise wouldn’t encounter civics instruction in a meaningful way. 

The Civics Bee could thrive on a national stage just like the National Spelling Bee. There is a reason we tune in, year after year, to watch adorably nervous kids spell out words that hardly anyone ever uses: This country still loves excellence, and we love a challenge, no matter what that challenge might be. If you have ever watched Joey Chestnut demolish an absurd amount of hot dogs or pored over the Guinness Book of World Records as a kid, you know what I mean. 

It remains to be seen if the Civics Bee will become a rite of passage like its spelling counterpart. But it stands a chance, not just to become a phenomenon, but most importantly, to help kids learn about the country we share.