A lack of knowledge in civic affairs makes individuals less likely to be active, engaged citizens — a trend that has been echoed in Wisconsin.

In 2017, three in five Wisconsin municipalities reported an average of one or fewer candidates for each village board or city council seat, according to the 2018 State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages, a report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

And a survey conducted in August by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only two in five American adults can correctly name the three branches of government. It showed that people who took high school civics — as well as those who were greater consumers of news — were more likely to know the answers to six key civics questions, including naming the branches of government.

Turning the trend around is part of why the Wisconsin Civics Games — a statewide civics competition for teams of high school students — were held for the first time in 2019. And why they are continuing in 2020.

We hope Deerfield and Cambridge High Schools decides to participate this year.

Registration for 2020 opened on Monday, Sept. 16, at www.wisconsincivicsgames.com. The deadline to register is Tuesday, Nov. 5. After signing up to participate, teams will be sent study materials and resources to help prepare.

Sponsors of the 2020 Wisconsin Civics Games include the Wisconsin Counties Association, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Evjue Foundation, Local Government Institute of Wisconsin and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, as a time as nation, getting students ready for STEM, but one of our schools’ most important duties is to prepare the next generation to be good citizens, and the Civics Games can play a role in that,” said WNA Foundation President Scott Peterson, editor of the Watertown Daily Times. “This is so important for the future of our nation, to educate our kids about our democracy and get them engaged.”

Regional competitions will be Friday, April 24, at University of Wisconsin campuses across the state.

The two highest-scoring teams from each region will compete on Friday, May 15, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison during the state finals.

Members of the winning team will again receive $2,000 scholarships to the Wisconsin college or university of their choice.

The inaugural Wisconsin Civics Games — held earlier this year— drew more than 100 students from 25 schools across the state.

Platteville High School students Jacob Sherer, Spencer Olds, Alex Sonsalla and Liam Reinicke were named the first-ever champions of the competition.

The Civics Games were launched by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation in response to declining civics education and participation in civic affairs. In addition to serving as judges, several local and state officials, as well as newspaper representatives, addressed the students at regional and final competitions.

Additional information about the games, including study tips, information about hosting a school-level competition, official rules and sample questions can be found at www.wisconsincivicsgames.com.

Individuals interested in volunteering to help with the games or providing support through a donation or sponsorship can also find more information on the Civics Games website.

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