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Cheers to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for signing a bill to require Illinois middle schools to create and include a unit on civics education.

According to Ryan Tolley, policy director for Change Illinois, which advocated for the bill, "The civics education curricula will include instruction on government institutions, discussion of current and societal issues, service learning, and simulations of democratic processes. To support middle-school teachers, schools, and districts, the McCormick Foundation has pledged to raise and fund $3 million in private donations to pay for the program statewide."

That ensures that the new law gives educators the power to create the semester-long course for Illinois sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders but also protects school districts from the burden of yet another unfunded mandate.

There's no question that beefed-up civic education is essential. Study after study has shown that too many Americans lack the knowledge of how our government works, which is an essential building block of a healthy democracy and an engaged and thriving state and nation.

Civics education once was a staple of school curricula everywhere in America, but it got crowded out as educators were forced to bend to increasing requirements that eat up classroom time. Today's voter apathy and government dysfunction are evidence of the price the nation pays when a large number of its citizenry is uninformed and disengaged.

The newest Illinois civics class can give educators a powerful tool to make a difference, and it continues the restoration of civics education in the Land of Lincoln.

According to Education Week, before 2015, the state had some of the weakest requirements in the nation. That year, with the assistance of reformers and the promise of another grant from the McCormick Foundation, lawmakers added a high-school-level course. 

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Ideally, this latest addition will lay the groundwork for an even more effective high school civics class, and result in building better informed and more involved citizens. Thanks to all working to make it happen, and for continuing to push for expanding literacy classes at every level of public education.

Jeers to Rep. Steve King for continuing to spread his noxious brand of politics. We wish we could say we were surprised by the GOP congressman's latest offering, which came Wednesday before a group called the Westside Conservative Club. We're not. We continue, however, to be disgusted by the things that come out of his mouth; for example, the reason he told the crowd at Wednesday's Urbandale, Iowa, event that he did not include exceptions for rape and incest in a recent anti-abortion bill.

"What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest?" he asked. "Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can't say that I was not a part of a product of that."

Sadly, it's par for the course for the man who in 2017 tweeted in opposing immigration, “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies," and who told a radio talk show that blacks and Hispanics “will be fighting each other” before overtaking whites in U.S. population.

His ignorance has not come without some cost for King. Last January, he was stripped of his House committee assignments after he told the New York Times this: "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" On Wednesday in Iowa, he claimed he was misquoted as part of a plot by powerful people in Washington to unseat him.

Among them he no doubt believes is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who advised King earlier this year to find "another line of work."

King didn't then, and he probably won't now. It's time voters did it for him.

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