by Kyle Swenson
The Ohio legislature wants to mandate what’s on school reading lists, all in the name of Amurica.
According to the Dispatch, yesterday the house debated and passed a bill that will require schools to teach and test students on the documents central to American history. It’s all the big names you’d expect — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, a smattering of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, plus the Ohio Constitution and the Northwest Ordinance. So we’re not talking about the course load for graduate level at U of Chicago, but some heavy intellectual lifting, nonetheless. Under the bill, students would get acquainted with the Founding Docs as earlier as 4th grade.
As an idea, we think this is pretty great. Kids need to take a whack at these documents, they’re obviously important. We begin every Scene editorial meeting with a dramatic reading of the Declaration. Unfortunately, this being the thought-stunted frat house we call the state legislature, the debate over the documents became a Blue v. Red head-to-head.
First off, the bill was pushed by a group called the Ohio Christian Alliance, a “pro-life, pro-family” group put on this piece of space rock to “train Christian leaders for effective social and political action,” and “to defend the legal rights of Christians against an ever-growing anti-Christian bias,” according to their Web site. It was proposed by the majority Republicans, and challenged in debate by the Dems, who brought to light some pretty innocuous criticisms, including a half-pass at changing some wording from “original documents” to “historical documents.” That got shot down. The bill passed 62-31.
But one side thumping on the docs — co-opting them as part of the legislative agenda —in this context strikes us as a little off, part of the same intellectual fumble that’s been getting a lot of traction over the last couple years: mainly, that somehow the Founding Docs support a certain view of America, and anyone who clears a path through that heady 18th century syntax will immediately realize Obama is a socialist who baths in the blood of newborns every night before crawling back to his Pyongyang-manufactured coffin; and that these documents were divine hand-me-downs, not, say, the distillation of 100 years of Enlightenment thought cooked-up by libertines and church naysayers in Paris, spiked with some crotchety Calvinism.
The other point that rubs wrong here is that the Republicans want to get right up inside the classroom and nit pick what’s on the syllabus . . . and that . . . does it? . . . hmmm . . . yeah . . . that seems like the state government is putting it’s hands where they don’t belong . . . telling the folks how to do their jobs. Some people call that over-regulation, if you think about it for a bit.
Then again, we’ve got five dollars that the time we just spent writing this post is twice what your average state legislator has spent with the Anti-Federalist papers, ever.