American Civics and History Act
WHEREAS, the 2020 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey found that one out of every two Americans cannot name all three branches of government and one in five Americans are unable to name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;
WHEREAS, the 2018 Nation’s Report Card determined that three out of every four American students are not proficient in civics;
WHEREAS, the fifth Annual Report on US Attitudes Toward Socialism, Communism, and Collectivism, authored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, found that one in four Americans support the gradual elimination of a capitalist system in favor of a more socialist system, and nearly one in three young Americans have a favorable view of Marxism;
WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that public education should “not strangle the free mind at its source or teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes”, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 US 624 (1943);
SECTION 1: Definitions
- “Currently controversial issue” means any matter of or relating to politics, history, or social affairs that is the subject of a current dispute or disagreement among one or more groups of reasonable persons.
- “Instructional material” means instructional content that is provided to a public school student, regardless of its format, that includes without limitation printed or representational materials, audio-visual materials, and materials in electronic or digital format, such as materials accessible through the internet. The term does not include academic tests or academic assessments.
- “Public school” means any public K-12 school in this state.
SECTION 1: Title and Purpose
- This Act may be known and shall be cited as “The American Civics and History Act”.
- The purpose of this legislation is to teach, foster, and perpetuate the ideals, principles, and spirit of democracy and economic freedom in America, and to increase students’ knowledge and appreciation of the organization, purpose, and machinery of the government of the United States and the State of (insert State name).
SECTION 2: Required Instruction
- In all public schools located within this state there shall be given prior to the completion of the eighth grade, and again in high school prior to the completion of the twelfth grade, at least one semester of instruction in the history of the United States, at least one semester of instruction in the governments of the United States and the State of (insert state name), and at least one semester of instruction in American civics.
- The required courses described in this section shall collectively:
- Include instruction on the institutions and structure of American government, including but not limited to the separation of powers, the Electoral College, and federalism;
- Include instruction that provides students an understanding of American political philosophy and history consistent with student grade level;
- Offer a comparative and objective analysis of ideologies throughout American and world history, including but not limited to capitalism, republicanism, democracy, socialism, communism, totalitarianism, and fascism. This analysis shall utilize examples of political freedoms and economic development under such ideologies and include historical first-person oral accounts relating to each; and
- Emphasize the use of primary sources and interactive learning techniques, such as mock scenarios, debates, and open and impartial discussions. Primary sources for high school courses shall include, but are not limited to, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Federalist Papers, and the Constitution of the United States, with a particular emphasis on the Bill of Rights, the Thirteenth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, and the Nineteenth Amendment. Middle school courses are also encouraged to utilize such primary sources to the extent practical.
- The (insert relevant state education authority) shall, with the advice of the (State Superintendent/Commissioner of Education), prescribe the courses of study, the basic course requirements for middle school and high school, and the academic standards for the required courses described in this section.
- No public school shall direct or otherwise compel a teacher or student to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to any belief relating to a current event or currently controversial issue.
- The instruction required in this section shall supplement, not supplant, existing State requirements described in (relevant State code).
SECTION 3: Academic Transparency
- All Instructional material for the required instruction in Section 2 of this Act shall be reviewed and approved prior to first use, and at least once every four years thereafter, by the (insert relevant state/local education authority) in consultation with parents, educators, and others regarding the accuracy and suitability of the material. No instructional material may be approved unless the public has been provided no less than thirty-days to submit comments to the (insert relevant state/local education authority) as part of the review required by this section.
- The (insert relevant state/local education authority) shall maintain on its website a publicly accessible list or database of approved instructional materials for use in social science courses. Such list or database shall be updated prior to the start of each school year and contain, at a minimum, each instructional material’s title, author, and date of production.
- Prior to the start of each school year, the State Auditor shall audit each public school district for compliance with the provisions of this Act and produce a report detailing his or her findings.
SECTION 4: Accountability Measures
- Beginning with the (insert next school year or following year if necessary), students taking a social science course in the public high schools of this state shall be administered a multiple-choice test with at least 20 questions that are the same as or substantially similar to the questions posed in the 2020 version of the civics test used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as an indicator of knowledge and understanding in the area of American civics. Such testing shall be developed and distributed each year by the (insert relevant state education authority) for statewide consistency.
- Each public school district shall report the following aggregate data to the (insert relevant state education authority), organized by grade level, related to the civics test administered pursuant to this subsection:
- The median score;
- The percentage of students who passed with at least 60% correct;
- The percentage of students who failed with less than 60% correct; and
- Such other data as may be required by the (insert relevant state education authority) which is relevant to the civics test administered under this Act.
- No data reported to the state in subsection (b) of this section shall contain the personally identifiable information of any student.
- The (insert relevant state education authority) shall make publicly available and easily accessible on its website a “Civics Education Scorecard” that provides the data required in subsection (b) of this section, organized at a minimum by school district and grade level.
SECTION 5: Severability
- The provisions of this act are hereby declared to be severable and if any provision of this act or the application of such provision to any person or circumstance is declared invalid for any reason, such declaration shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this act.