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Althea Garrison gets standing ovation for first initiative

New City Councilor Althea Garrison, just three weeks after her unexpected ascension to her seat, received a standing ovation for her first proposal as councilor.
New City Councilor Althea Garrison, just three weeks after her unexpected ascension to her seat, received a standing ovation for her first proposal as councilor.(Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/File 2019)

It was a simple proposal to explore expanding the curriculum for civics classes for Boston public school students. It was also the first by new City Councilor Althea Garrison, just three weeks after her unexpected ascension to her seat.

And with it, she received a standing ovation.

It was Garrison’s so-called “Maiden Speech” — her first request for a City Council hearing — and afterward she said the remarkable show of support had her beaming.

“It feels great,” she said, of the round of applause from the clerk and her council colleagues.

For years, the 78-year-old Garrison had been a longshot candidate for the council. After many attempts, she placed fifth in the 2017 election with just under 7 percent of the vote, and under city rules that meant she would replace outgoing councilor Ayanna Pressley — who was elected to Congress last year.

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On Jan. 9, Garrison was officially sworn in for the $99,500-a-year job. And Wednesday, the only publicly proclaimed Trump supporter on the council went on to exhort the need for more civic discussions in government, nationally and locally, and saying those lessons can be instilled in school.

“Current events in our current and recent national elections only highlight how important it is we educate our young people on how our government ought to work, given our history and goals and progress that we all share,” she proclaimed.

Garrison said she was surprised to learn that only nine states require a yearlong civics curriculum, and Massachusetts is not one of them.

“While federal education policy has focused on improving academic achievement at reading and math, that has come at the expense of a broader curriculum,” she said, adding that, as a result, students have failed “to understand the basic functions of government.”

She called for at least a year of history of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the voting process, and the need for public participation in government.

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“State-specific curriculums are heavy on knowledge but light on building skills,” Garrison added.

Per council protocol, the proposal was referred to the committee on education. But every one of Garrison’s 12 colleagues asked to be signed on as cosponsors.

Of the overwhelming round of applause, City Council President Andrea Campbell joked that Garrison can’t expect such support all of the time.

“I would say take it all in,” Campbell said.


Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.