Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation announced the launch of the 2023 National Civics Bee, a national competition designed to inspire young Americans to become better informed about American democracy, to engage respectfully and constructively in the community, and to build greater trust in others and institutions. Students in participating states may apply for the competition here. The deadline to enter is February 24.
“In recent years, Americans’ civics knowledge has fallen significantly, with 47% not being able to name all three branches of government. At the same time, 76% of eighth graders score below proficient in civics,” said Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber Foundation. “Despite these disturbing numbers, studies show that simple interventions, such as taking a civics class early in academic life, can make a big difference in becoming active, informed and responsible citizens. This is exactly what we hope to achieve with the National Civics Bee – to inspire a new generation of Americans to be civically engaged and active in shaping the future of our communities and our nation.”
Modeled on traditional spelling and geography bees, the 2023 National Civics Bee builds on the success of the pilot competitions held in six states in 2022. This year, the competition is expanding to nine states, including Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, in partnership with local and state chambers of commerce, and ultimately aims to engage students in all 50 states.
Local chambers in each state will recruit sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students to take part in a first-round essay competition, proposing a civics solution to a community problem. After a distinguished panel reviews the 500-word essays, the top 20 students in each community will participate in their local competition, which will include a live quiz and a $500 cash prize for first place. The top three finalists from each local event will then advance to the state competition, competing for a chance to receive various prizes, including $1,000 cash for the first-place student.
“When we understand how democracy works, we can make it work better. We hope that the Civics Bee will broaden participation in our civic life and inspire Kentuckians to build on our shared commitment to our values, institutions, schools, economy, and the health of our community,” said Kentucky Chamber Foundation Senior Vice President Beth Davisson.
Last year, the competition engaged 981 contestants from 135 schools. Kaitlyn Thangaraj, who won first place in Mason City, Iowa, impressed the judges with her proposal to introduce “Armadillo” lane dividers to bring bike safety to Mason City.
“A lot of people don’t recognize civics for what it is. It helps you beyond academics because it’s part of our world today, it’s part of our government that runs us and how we run the government as well. It helps us to realize who we are and what we can do if we try,” she noted.
The National Civics Bee is part of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Civic Trust initiative, designed to improve understanding of and involvement in American civic life by changing the conversation and perception of civics in classrooms, board rooms, on social media and through other platforms.
To learn more about the National Civics Bee, including competition rules and prizes, and to submit your essay, visit this link.