A former history prof from West Georgia College was in Olympia two weeks ago, lecturing the Washington Legislature about, among other things, why the law should make schools spend one day a year teaching the Declaration of Independence.
Dr. Newton Leroy Gingrich didn’t assign homework, but less than a week later, state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, introduced Senate Bill 6432.
As legislation goes, SB 6432 is as succinct as it gets. It adds one sentence to state law:
“Students in kindergarten through grade twelve shall receive at least one school day per year of instruction in the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
Spokane Sen. Jim West, one of 17 co-sponsors, said he doesn’t want to “micromanage” the public schools but his signature “symbolizes the fact that I support school children learning the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and the principles on which this country was founded.”
Actually, the aspiration West described is basically one of the Essential Academic Learning Requirements Washington’s public schools already are obliged to teach. At the fifth, eighth and 11th grades especially, U.S. history and government, including the founding documents, are focal subjects.
So why bulk up the law books any more? Why consume legislators’ time in hearings? Why create more paperwork for local schools? To do something they’re already doing (and not just symbolically)? To please Newt Gingrich?
State lawmakers’ job is to make policy and set direction, not to write lesson plans. Local schools have enough of a burden keeping on top of the red tape and mandates the state hands down.
If youngsters are coming out of the school system now without understanding the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution - in other words, not learning what existing statutes and regulations require - another law won’t change matters.
On the apparent assumption that seat time translates into learning, SB 6432 dictates how one of the 180 school days in a year will be spent - by every student, kindergarten through 12th grade. One day out of 180 doesn’t sound like much until you add up all the other educating there is to be done: in other aspects of history and civics, in other social studies, in math, in reading, in writing, in foreign language, in science, in health and physical education, in art and music.
The task is daunting enough at the local level. It shouldn’t be choreographed from Olympia - especially with no showing that current methods are deficient.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Doug Floyd For the editorial board
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