Someone is FINALLY Getting the Basic Point
A federal lawsuit class action has been filed against Rhode Island public schools for failing to prepare students for participation in a democracy. Where ever you are, you can hear me cheering!
The suit points to a woeful lack of knowledge by American students about how our government works. Less than a third of 8thgraders understand the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. In a recent survey, fewer than half of all Americans could name the three branches of government. And only one in five Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 reads a newspaper.
The suit names the Governor, the State Department of Education, and leaders of the General Assembly. The suit claims that the U.S. Constitution guarantees all students should have access to an education that prepares them to participate in their civic duties such as free speech, voting and serving on a jury. One problem is that the right to an education, appropriate or otherwise, is not mentioned in the Constitution.
The Rhode Island Department of Education said it requires three years of history/social studies to earn a high school diploma and that the standards specifically talk about civics. Yet students have testified that in 12 years in a public high school, they have never been taught how government works. Maryland does not require civics.
Long ago and far away, the main reason for providing everyone an education at public expense was because taxpayers believed that an educated electorate was critical to a functioning democracy. Where did we go wrong?
Similar cases have gone through the courts before. There have been similar cases in 47 states. In approximately 60% of those cases the courts have ruled that students have a Constitutional right to an adequate education. Rhode island was not among them. Teachers across the country are not tested on their knowledge or civics or American history.
How did we get from preparing students to be active citizens to insisting on two years of algebra and no civics education at all. There is a reason so many people don’t vote or are easily flummoxed by shouting politicians, the people know not how the system works. Wouldn’t it be great if schools really got back to basics?