Wednesday, January 11, 2012

GUEST COLUMN: "Understanding the Importance of our Founding Documents"

St. Rep. John Adams
By. St. Rep. John Adams

Many of you probably remember the response given three years ago by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when asked by a reporter, “Where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”

She responded, “Are you serious?”

Her obvious disregard for the importance of our nation’s premier founding document should disturb every American. Regardless of your opinion on the health insurance mandate, hearing a high-ranking public official intentionally sidestep such an important question should prompt all of us to reevaluate the respect that is given to our Constitution.

This education should begin in our schools. It is critically important that our youth grow up with the understanding that the U.S. Constitution actually grants the federal government very limited powers, as opposed to giving wide-ranging control to the hands of politicians in Washington.

That is why I authored a bill that requires the State Board of Education to incorporate the teaching of important founding documents in the state’s school system. Under the Senate vehicle, Senate Bill 165, social studies standards for grades 4 through 12 would feature academic content regarding the original texts of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence, Northwest Ordinance and Ohio Constitution. The new standards would also include an end-of-course American history and government examination as a component of graduation tests.

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to remodel the state’s curriculum and assessments (during the existing ongoing assessment revamp process so that no extra money is required) to include these new social studies guidelines. Finally, it allows teachers with valid educator licenses in social studies to continue teaching these subjects without acquiring further licensing. The bill is not focused on placing burdens on teaching positions, but rather on placing more emphasis on ensuring that our country’s future gain a comprehensive understanding of our history.

Implementing this curriculum would not add unmanageable burdens on schools because, frankly, these texts should be taught anyway. While emphasizing math and science in public education is important, we should not overlook the value of learning about our nation and state’s founding documents. As Mrs. Powell asked Benjamin Franklin as he left the Constitutional Convention, “What have you given us?”, Mr. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Unless our school children understand the basics of the founding of our country, we will not be able to keep the republic that Benjamin Franklin and the other Framers of our Constitution fought and died for.

This bill passed through the House with bipartisan support, which indicates that this is not an issue that divides Republicans and Democrats. Rather, we can all agree on the importance of learning about the documents that have shaped and guided our nation.