Back to basics on government

An editorial by The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — A proposed amendment to an education bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates is not likely to go anywhere, except away. It ought to be shelved – but the frustration behind it should not be ignored.

Too many high school graduates, not just in the Mountain State but throughout the country, are ignorant of basic history, knowledge of our system of government, and economics. That is a recipe for the method of government that made our nation the envy of the world to come crashing down around our ears.

Yet despite the fact that failing in many public schools has been apparent for some time, little has been done to address it. That may have something to do with the recognition among some politicians that the public’s ignorance is a good thing for them.

So arrogant have some in powerful roles become that they actually brag about their ability to pull the wool over many Americans’ eyes. Remember what Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, said about “the stupidity of the American voter” making it possible to enact the program?

Several members of the House of Delegates want to do something drastic about the problem. They have proposed an amendment that would make it a crime for teachers to proceed to course material “involving the study of social problems, global economies, foreign affairs, the United Nations, world government, socialism or communism” before covering basics of U.S. history, geography and government in this country at all levels.

Obviously, there could be some discussion about the lawmakers’ priorities. For example, really learning about global economies is an excellent idea.

But the message is clear: Public schools need to do a better job of teaching students what they need to know to make intelligent decisions regarding government.

Curriculum and learning outcome requirements have become so detailed that few educators have time to cover much optional material. That, not how individual teachers guide their classrooms, is likely to be a big part of the problem.

The amendment probably will be passed over and forgotten – as, again, it should be. If a teacher’s work is unacceptable, the solution is not to haul him or her out of the classroom in handcuffs.

But the fact some legislators see the problem of an ill-informed public as that serious should not be passed over.

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