Thursday, March 23, 2006
LEGISLATURE KILLS THE GOOD, OLD CIVICS,
BUT COULD GIVE US SCARY NEW ONES
I’ve been watching a national ruckus over $110 million in federal funding that’s been provided for a civics textbook, “We the People.” It minimizes the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights, and maximizes “global citizenship” and something called “world transformation.”
It’s in use in Nebraska, even though it is said to have radical leftist and anti-American material in it. And now, with the big federal subsidies, it can be offered to local school districts for a song, with teacher training – strike that, teacher indoctrination – soon to follow.
You can read more about this morass from the Center for Civic Education by searching for the many stories that have been done on it at www.edwatch.org
Now the stage is being set for a possible redefinition of American civics education that could make that leftist point of view the “standard” here.
It appears that LB 1247, proposed this session by State Sen. DiAnna Schimek of Lincoln, and still alive in the Legislature’s Education Committee, sets the stage for the “new civics” to be installed in Nebraska by declaring traditional American history education “too narrow” and “a bit outdated.”
If her bill passes, the next step would be to put vague, ambiguous and relativistic language into new civics “standards” to be promulgated by the State Department of Education. And then the heavy federal subsidies for that leftist textbook would make it very difficult for a local school board to turn down a freebie that already has the slanted curriculum that meets the “standards” the state set up.
What really makes this ironic is that we had a chance to block all this. I’m ashamed of myself for not promoting an excellent addition to Nebraska’s civics education law that came up before the Education Committee in February, and was killed.
LB 1211 from State Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue would have kept Nebraska’s existing Americanism statute intact, but added several specific examples of documents that ought to be taught to students so that they would understand the “principles, character and world view of America’s founders.”
Examples: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, presidential proclamations, Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, acts of Congress, U.S. Supreme Court decisions. . . .
Great stuff. Only one person spoke in favor of it, though, and it died an unheralded death. I strongly urge Sen. Cornett and other senators to bring it back next session, and get it in place.
But now, to my double dismay, I see that the Schimek bill, LB 1247, which is still alive, would:
n transfer the ultimate authority over civics education from local school boards to the State Board of Education; it would develop standards, rules and regulations, and procedures for the teaching of civics, social studies and related courses.
n take out assurances that local school boards are supposed to make “as to the character of all teachers employed and their knowledge and acceptance of the American form of government.” Sen. Schimek said the State Department of Education says those assurances are addressed by the oath taken by teachers when certified.
n remove “American history” courses as the focus for civics education, change the wording to the more general “courses;” Sen. Schimek said, “This is because civics is comprised of more than just history. This is one of the areas that the statute is too narrowly written.”
n remove direction to teach about what was and is wrong with Nazism, communism and other ideologies (p. 4, 20-22); Sen. Schimek said those are “outdated” because they leave out “extremism and terrorism,” but of course, those could be considered “other ideologies.”
n remove specific direction to observe Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday, Flag Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day; again, Sen. Schimek said those holidays have to go because “this list is narrow and undoubtedly excludes other important days and celebrations that should be recognized.”
n decrease requirements for three class periods per week to focus on civics, rewording it to “teaching periods” rather than a specific number.
You can read the existing civics law, Section 79-724, in the Nebraska statutes on:
Now ,it’s not a priority bill, so it may just sit for several months. But we all should still let our senators know that this uncivil civics bill ought to find the round file.
Ironically, one of the reasons I really don’t like this bill is because of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That states that anything that isn’t specifically assigned to the federal government should be done by states and localities. Exhibit A: education. There really is no constitutional green light for the federal government to be involved in public education at all, besides insuring basic health and safety of children.
And now the federal government is funding and therefore shaping the curriculum that will teach kids about . . . the federal government? I . . . don’t . . . think . . . so.
What did Patrick Henry say? Give me liberty – give me a senator’s email address – give me a chance to explain how damaging this is, or could be . . . or otherwise, what will we get? A big, fat, propaganda machine – paid for with our own tax dollars.
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