The Foul Odor of Congressional Civics Reform

On March 11, the Civics Secures Democracy Act, which supposedly will serve to improve the understanding of civics in elementary, middle, and high schools, was introduced into the present session of Congress, both House and Senate.   However, its bloated language, fatuous assumptions, and mind-drugging pomposity alone show that this bill is not only not helpful, but destructive of the republic.  Furthermore, this bill will clearly feed the aspirations of the left wing of American politics, which already carries far too much weight in public education.  This is not only this writer's viewpoint, but that of Stanley Kurtz in National Review and that of the Eagle Forum (founded by the conservative woman's woman Phyllis Schlafly of blessed memory).

Incredibly, John Cornyn (R-Texas) is one of the co-sponsors of this legislation.  Is he a conservative?  A Republican?  Or should we just say he is a hypocrite?  This is yet another example of that congressional mutual back-scratching that has sadly become a hallmark of our political system.  We have seen this recently with Sen. Mitch McConnell's finger-pointing betrayal of Pres. Donald Trump, and it has been the pathetic reality defining the Republicans in Congress for many, many years.

Just as elephantiasis is a grotesque swelling of various parts of the body, so the Republicans are grotesquely puffed up with their words claiming conservative political and fiscal values while failing to adhere to what true conservatism should look like and represent.  In reality, this modus operandi, the back-and-fill process of legislating in the good ol' boys network, takes precedence over principle.  Under the pretense of being "cooperative" and working for the "greater good" of the republic, compromises and collaborations are geared up that should never be effected.

Let's look at some of the abstruse and unacceptable language of this legislation.  We shall see that a plenitude of educational jargon is used to project an image of constructive educational practice.  In fact, to the seasoned reader, this kind of bloated, non-specific language should be an immediate red flag crying out for revision or rejection.

Under its "Priority" section, the proposed legislation states that grants are to be awarded to "students traditionally underserved by comprehensive civic education and American history programs, including rural and inner-city, urban students.  English language learners, students who have not completed high school, and other such students;"  The writers of this legislation themselves must be "English language learners" since that "sentence" is a sentence fragment and thus cannot end with a semicolon.  Further, "other such students" is totally vague and without substance: who are the "such students" being referred to? 

Most important of all, the expression "traditionally underserved" is a buzzword for non-white students.  In other words, the idea is to get them invested in the idea of Critical Race Theory — that the law is inherently racist as well as biased against the LGBT communities and sub-communities, and that American political discourse has been distorted by white, straight males for centuries.  The goal is to instill the "underserved" with a new clarity about the needs for the future and to make their voices heard against the voices of oppression.

In fact, the word "civics" is never defined in the legislation.  Typically, laws begin with definitions of terms, but not this law.  Under purposes of this legislation, the authors state that they are committed to "making available to all students innovative and engaging curricula and programs in American civics and history[.]"  But no criteria for innovative or engaging are enumerated.  What is civics, and how does it differ from history?  Do they write that they want to cultivate an appreciation for the incredible rights-based Constitution we have and the Declaration of Independence that preceded it?  Do they say that from the beginning of the Republic, the government stood against slavery in the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787?  Do they write that they want to put forward the importance of separation of powers, with the federal government sharing power with state governments?  In fact, will the students be told that ours is the only country where the local subdivision of the nation-states (the states) created the central (federal) government?  What about the importance of universal suffrage? 

So the very lack of enumeration of topics that will come under civics itself bespeaks a hidden agenda, a lack of transparency, and even an element of subterfuge...words that sound good but are empty and can even be deceptive without explanation.  I know it's less than a perfect analogy, but you may recall the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 that was supposed to allow the government to intervene against monopolies in restraint of trade.  The only problem was that the words "restraint of trade" were not defined, nor were the actions that could be taken defined.  It was more sentimental, throwing a bone to the anti-monopolists while in effect doing nothing to protect the economy.  And it was corrected only more than 25 years later by the Clayton Antitrust Act, which was much more specific in defining its terms.  Similarly, this vacuous legislation is capitulating to the left by its very lack of clarity!  The problem that students have today is that they have lost their appreciation for the American system and for the rights that have protected the people since the inception of the country.

Take away belief in the values of "the system," and the very people who may think they are being victimized by the system will become much more vulnerable to persecution than they can even imagine.  Dark, power-mad forces will move into positions of influence that make any of the movers and shakers of the past look like Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Remember the power-mad Aaron Burr?  Well, there is an army of Aaron Burrs and worse than Aaron Burr in the political arena today waiting to wring money and blood out of the American people.

Civics must be explicitly tied to love of country and not tied to correcting its mores.  Love of country may involve being a change agent, but love of country is not the same as being a change agent.  That distinction must be explicitly acknowledged in any "civics" legislation going forward.  The legislation tells us that it intends to support closing "gaps in civic knowledge and achievement among students of different income levels, racial and ethnic groups, and native languages[.]"  Public education itself was set up for this purpose.  Affirmative action laws were set up for this purpose.  The elimination of property qualifications for voting in the years following the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was set up for this purpose.  The 19th Amendment providing for women's suffrage was set up for this purpose.  The 13th,14th, and 15th Amendments were set up to provide voting rights and equal protections under the law for black citizens.  Will these realities be taught and emphasized in the "new civics"?  Or will these advances be portrayed as insignificant or even bogus?  Or is the new frontier of freedom really the admission of trannies into women's bathrooms, or the right to spit in the faces of so-called racist cops?

Please, dear readers, write by the hundreds of thousands, by the millions, to your congressmen, and to your Republican senators, to scream and shout, not merely vote, against this pathetic, anti-American legislation.

E. Jeffrey Ludwig is a prolific writer for and other online publications.  He taught real civics and American History for 40 years, including a three-year stint at Harvard University.  And he was listed four times in Who's Who Among America's High School Teachers.

Image: Pashi via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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