Jim Hartman: Needed: Civics in our schools

When San Francisco’s progressive Democrat Mayor London Breed expressed doubts the city’s public school classrooms would reopen this year, the even more progressive San Francisco school board was busy voting to strip the names of historical figures off 44 schools.
Breed slammed the school district on their controversial and expensive proposal to rename the schools, at a time when children haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in nearly a year.
The time spent on the school renaming project came at the expense of returning students to classrooms.
The school board’s “School Names Advisory Committee” targeted historical figures who had “diminished the opportunities” of anyone else, a catchall phrase that allowed the board to expunge any name it chose.
The “canceled” 44 historical notables include: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and even Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. There was also Herbert Hoover, Paul Revere, James Garfield, Francis Scott Key, William McKinley, Daniel Webster , Junipero Serra (founder of the California missions), and many more.
The board voted to change the name of Roosevelt Middle School, without knowledge if it was named after Theodore Roosevelt or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. No new names have been chosen for the schools — they just want to get rid of the old ones.
The board’s action was the result of radical anti-historical forces that dominate parts of our current culture.
Knowing the fundamentals of our history and government is essential to being an informed and effective citizen. Yet, few Americans today know the basics about their country — its history and how its government works.
For years, most of our schools have been derelict in teaching what was called “civics,” the primary tenets of U.S. history and our system of government. This abysmal ignorance is stunning.
Civics has nearly disappeared in classrooms. Where American history is taught with any energy, it’s often repackaged as a dark subject of social injustice. Rather than schools teaching young Americans about their birthright of freedom and responsibilities, they are too often told that our great national enterprise was shamefully born and conducted.
As a result, we now live in a nation where ardent ignoramuses are ripe pickings for demagogues — from the political extreme right and left.
Many failures led to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol and the racially motivated riots of last summer, among them is our education system that formerly taught and reinforced civics, patriotism, history and the duties of citizenship.
There’s a solution: Have schools teach civics based on the naturalization test given to immigrants who want to become citizens. Before being granted citizenship, an immigrant must learn the essentials of the United States form of government and critical events in the country’s history.
Areas of study on the naturalization test include American government, U.S. history and American symbols and holidays.
It’s shameful that new Americans know far more about their new country than most who are born citizens. The civics test for naturalization should be made a core course in schools throughout the United States.
In Nevada, State Sen. Mo Denis (D-Las Vegas) authored legislation requiring public school students pass the civics test given to naturalized citizens. The son of Cuban immigrants, Denis is the cousin of Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Denis’ law (NRS 389.009) requires Nevada public high schools administer a civics test identical to at least 50 questions contained in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services test given naturalized citizens. Taking that examination is a condition for high school graduation.
However, a bill (SB 2) now in the Legislature, introduced for the Clark County School District, contains a provision that would repeal NRS 389.009 — the civics testing requirement.
Nevada educators should be teaching and testing more about civics, not less. Now more than ever we need students who know our history and how government works. Repealing NRS 389.009 would go in the wrong direction.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. His e-mail: lawdocman1@aol.com.

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