If a little of something is bad for you, why would you want more of it? Ask yourself that before consenting to the federal government imposing itself into more of our children’s education.

The United States already spends more per student than almost all of its peers.[1] Yet for all our money, according to PEW research, America’s academic performance falls in the middle to lower rungs. Before compulsory schools existed, literacy rates were 90%.[2]  Compare that to today, where “45 million Americans…are functionally illiterate, unable to read above a 5th grade level, and half of all adults can’t read a book at an 8th grade level.”[3]

How long would you do business with an outfit that charged more and delivered less? Sadly, that’s the history of our primary public education system. Yet as is often the case with government, if what you’re doing isn’t working, do more of it! And since the 1960s we have, starting with the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965, the creation of the Department of Education (DOE) in 1979, the Educate America Act (1994), and No Child Left Behind (2001) to name a few. Though Common Core (2010) was initiated by the National Governors Association, it gets grants from the federal government through the DOE, as do many other state-based programs. All come with strings attached.

Given the times that we are all living through, two recent and particularly alarming federal initiatives are: 1) the Biden Administration Proposed Rule prioritizing Critical Race Theory in civics related federal grants and 2), the congressional Civics Secures Democracy Act.

1) First the Proposed (Biden) RuleIt proposes to tie DOE grants to: “Projects That Incorporate Racially, Ethnically, Culturally, and Linguistically Diverse Perspectives into Teaching and Learning,” which is code for Critical Race Theory. The proposal also seeks to “foster critical thinking and promote student engagement…designed to help students… [understand] their own biases…”

It’s certainly true that civics education is sorely lacking in primary public schools, and promoting it is laudable, unless that is, such education is advancing Marxist based orthodoxies and Revisionist History, in which case the cure is worse than the disease.

The public has until May 19th to comment on the wisdom of the Proposed Rule, after which the DOE will act at its discretion. To learn more about this Rule go here. To register your opinion on the matter, please go here.

2) Next, according to Stanley Kurtz, the bi-partisan Civics Secures Democracy Act (H.R. 1814) represents “The Greatest Education Battle of our Lifetimes.” Hyperbole?

Consider that, if passed, the Act would authorize federal grants of $1B for six years to, “impose a de facto national curriculum in the politically charged subject areas of history and civics.”[4]  The billions in grant money would be targeted to politicized teacher training, research and curriculum development. Curriculums would include not just Critical Race Theory, but advance what is called “Action Civics,” which translated means protesting in politically correct causes for course credit. The promoters of Common Core deliberately avoided including civics in its original mandate because they knew civics is fraught with worldview questions and that it was too politically charged at the time to pursue. The Civics Secures Democracy Act would serve to fill that hole, but not in a healthy way.  Curriculums underwritten by such grants would almost certainly undermine America’s civic past for a woke version of civics that would be unrecognizable to past generations and destructive to America’s future. A related program is the federally endorsed Educating for American Democracy (EAD) initiative, which has been described as a “Trojan Horse for Woke Education.” (See also the related Civics Learning Act of 2021)

POK acknowledges that robust civics curriculums are sorely lacking in today’s public schools, but the way to solve this problem is through state and local curriculum development monitored by and accountable to informed parents, not through politicized federal agencies or postmodern legislators. That is why POK encourages you to make your voice heard by contacting your federally elected representatives. There may be a time for federal help in supporting civics curriculums. Now is not that time.

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”   Thomas Jefferson

[1] https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/Indicator_CMD/coe_cmd_2016_05.pdf
[2] https://californiapolicycenter.org/schools-out-forever/
[3] Id.
[4] https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/the-greatest-education-battle-of-our-lifetimes/