Several legislators in the South Carolina have proposed some changes to the way the schools down in the Palmetto State teach history and civics. While I’m always a proponent of giving more attention to the study of U.S. government (Teach kids that they can vote at 18? Yes, please!), the changes offered in a bill before the S.C. State Legislature has…well, let’s just call it a narrow focus.
According to Think Progress:
“The bill requires all South Carolina public schools to ‘provide instruction in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution for at least three consecutive weeks during one grading period in each academic year.’ Moreover, ‘the State Superintendent of Education shall adopt a curriculum developed or recommended by the National Rifle Association or its successor organization.’”
Let’s, for a moment, dismiss the obvious arguments against devoting a significant part of elementary, middle, and high school curricula to carrying water for the NRA‘s mission. Let’s just assume it actually is a good idea to teach in-depth understanding of the Constitution to kids of all ages. Of course in order to to really do that well, we’d have to address more than one amendment in our studies. You can’t just stop after the Second Amendment and expect to have a working knowledge of the foundational document of the U.S. government. With that in mind, here are some proposals for other three-week intensives on different amendments to the Constitution:
- Three weeks studying the cultural implications of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and how it should be applied in recognition of same-sex marriage nationwide, as well as the questions about whether it supersedes the need for and Equal Rights Amendment for women.
- Three weeks of study devoted to the 19th Amendment to draw attention to how marginalized women were prior to 1920.
- Three weeks on the 13th Amendment and long-term effects of slavery as the pivotal dehumanizer of dark-skinned peoples.
- Three weeks on the 21st Amendment, with emphasis on the financial and law enforcement effects of criminalizing alcohol and how decriminalization thereof might be used as a guideline for decriminalization of marijuana.
- Three weeks on the 5th Amendment and the rules for grand jury proceedings, especially as they apply to cases of law enforcement officers using unwarranted force against civilians.
- Three weeks on the 9th Amendment and what constitutes a “non-enumerated right,” especially the right to privacy as it extends to such issues as medical care and social media.
- Three weeks discussing the implications of the 23rd Amendment, which granted presidential electors to the District of Columbia without extending other rights of statehood and leaving the citizens of the District effectively disenfranchised in Congress.
- Three weeks of study of the intention of the turn “cruel and unusual punishment” as laid out in the 8th Amendment and how that applies in the face of mandatory prison sentences for drug offenses.
I’m sure the lawmakers of South Carolina are attempting to inject some patriotism and knowledge of the rights afforded to Americans* into public school curriculum that are increasingly under criticism for being to beholden to big testing companies for content. However, forcing teachers to give up a third of a marking period to one subject isn’t a good way to do that, especially when the coursework only deals with one set of rights, taught from one, very biased perspective. Better to assign the entire Constitution as mandatory reading and spend three weeks discussing the whole thing, not just the parts with guns.
*A more cynical blogger might say that the legislators in South Carolina are using this to generate campaign donations from the NRA and other gun rights supporters and bolster their conservative credentials among voters and they don’t actually care if the bill is ever passed because curriculum changes cost money that they probably don’t want to appropriate in the first place. In other words, this is a stunt.
Rebekah Kuschmider is a D.C. area mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, socialist tendencies, a cable news addiction, and a blog. Rebekah has an undergraduate degree in theater, Master’s in Arts Policy and Administration and a decade of experience managing arts organizations and advocating in the public health sector. Rebekah also blogs about her life, her thoughts, and her opinions at StayAtHomePundit.com. She was voted one of the Top 25 Political Mom Blogs at Circle of Moms. Her work has also been seen at Babble.com, Salon.com, Redbook online, and the Huffington Post.
To schedule an interview with Rebekah or inquire about speaking engagements, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.