Bit-by-bit, people are putting a higher priority on teaching old-fashioned civics. About five years ago, “a coalition of prominent leaders assembled by the Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute launched a Civics Education Initiative.” They started with the premise that students shouldn’t graduate unless they pass the same test that immigrants must pass when they apply for citizenship.

This movement started after it was discovered that “fewer than half knew that John Roberts is the current chief justice of the United States. More than one-quarter thought Brett Kavanaugh was.” When students were asked the term length for U.S. senators and representatives, “fewer than half of college graduates could give the correct numbers.”

While this is disturbing information, there’s more frightening news lurking on the horizon:

As Education Week has reported, the very idea of schools using the citizenship test elicits a “torrent of criticism from leaders who favor the new, broader conception of civics education.” Jessica Marshall, former social studies director for Chicago schools, put it this way: “[The citizenship tests] don’t tell us if young people know how to mobilize their communities to get resources or pass laws they care about.”

It isn’t the job of schools to teach students how to be progressive activists. Back in September, I wrote about Rep. Dean Urdahl’s op-ed (Part I and Part II). In that op-ed, Rep. Urdahl wrote this:

Next session, the MSBA [Minnesota School Board Association] plans to double down on its campaign against civic education. MSBA officials want to no longer have to offer the civics test. This crosses the line from passivity to enmity regarding civics. Testing conveys a message; we care about what we test. Eliminating the test implies MSBA doesn’t think civics is important. In Minnesota, it should not be about the number of tests, but rather, are we testing the right things.

Rep. Urdahl also wrote this:

The failure is measurable. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, the highly respected “Nation’s Report Card,” reports that 75% of our graduates leave high school not proficient in civics. They are failing. A nationwide poll found that two-thirds of Americans can name an American Idol judge, but only 15% can name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. One-third of our graduates can’t name a single branch of our government. The Annenberg Study revealed that 37% cannot name one right guaranteed in the First Amendment. There are students who think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.

Rep. Urdahl also wrote that MSBA wants school boards, not voters, to have the final say on operating levies:

Over 332 school boards are elected by their communities. These members are trusted and charged with the governance of school property, budget, curriculum, technology, taxes, student achievement and teacher quality – ensuring excellence and equity in all public schools. Therefore, MSBA asks that you honor and trust the work of these local officials by allowing school boards to renew an existing operating referendum, by reducing the current number of mandates, and provide flexibility to meet the unique needs of their schools and communities.

TRANSLATION: Those pesky citizens shouldn’t have a say on their property taxes. We know what’s best. That’s what progressive arrogance sounds like.

Since the DFL controls the House in 2020, it isn’t likely that they’ll say no to MSBA. That means we’ll need the GOP Senate to stop this unaccountability initiative dead in its tracks. Trusting school boards to do the right thing is like giving matches to an arsonist, then expecting him to not set something on fire. That isn’t insanity. It’s stupidity.

It’s also imperative that we elect a GOP majority in the House and maintain the GOP majority in the Senate in 2020. We can’t afford unified DFL state government. We saw what a disaster that was in 2013-14.

These things should be taught until students understand why we adopted this Constitution and why the US is the greatest nation on earth. We should make it illegal to teach political activism in schools. That’s the job of political parties and outside groups. Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for that stuff.

In addition to emphasizing teaching civics, it’s essential to emphasize teaching history, math and science, too. It’s important to de-emphasize the victimology classes, too. Civics classes unite us as a nation. Victimology classes divide us. Let’s work to unite, not divide, this great nation.

One Response to “Community organizing vs. civics”

  • Chad Q says:

    First – not all immigrants take the citizenship test. Only those who enter the country legally take the test.
    Second – without victims, the DFL has no one to vote for them.

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