Thu, Jan 13, 2022 1:30 PM
By Brett Davis | The Center Square, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – State Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, has introduced legislation to protect K-12 civic education and discourse.
House Bill 1807, pre-filed on Jan. 6, would clarify the state’s basic education goals related to the teaching of Washington state and American history.
“The state's Superintendent of Public Instruction has recently complained that too many Washington families are removing their children from the state's public schools,” Walsh said in a Monday press release. “Speaking like a bureaucrat, he frames this problem in budgetary terms. He's asking the Legislature for more money. Instead, we need to see the recent trends in unenrollment for what they are: a notice from the state's families that we need to provide a better education for their kids. House Bill 1807 is an important step toward providing that better education.”
Walsh went on to note, “In our ongoing debate over what's being taught, and what should not be taught, in our public schools, we need to state clearly and firmly what we're for, not just what we're against. This proposal sets in place a system for giving Washington's children a deep, rich and practical understanding of the nation and state in which they live. This instruction gives them the tools they need to participate in their government and enrich their communities.”
Walsh’s bill comes at a time when many parents in Washington state and across the nation are concerned about identity politics in the classroom in the form of critical race theory-influenced policies and practices, as well as the teaching of revisionist history.
Critical race theory as broadly understood promotes a point of view that racism is a social construct embedded in America’s legal system, public institutions, and policies. Being taught in some schools is journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones’s “The 1619 Project,” which makes the controversial case the start of the African slave presence in the English North American colonies in 1619 could be considered the founding of America.
HB 1807 would require, starting with the 2022-23 school year, each public school to provide kindergarten through eighth-grade students with a mandatory stand-alone, year-long course in civics, including age-appropriate instruction on the following:
The Declaration of IndependenceThe United States ConstitutionThe Federalist PapersAdam Smith's “The Wealth of Nations”The second of John Locke's “Two Treatises of Government”The transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debateThe Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850The Indian Removal ActThomas Jefferson's “Letter to the Danbury Baptists”Frederick Douglass's “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave”The Emancipation ProclamationMartin Luther King Jr.'s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” speechThe United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
“If the bill receives a hearing, we will engage with it,” said Katy Payne, executive director of communications for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), in an email response to The Center Square asking for comment on HB 1807.
Walsh made the case that his bill deserves a hearing.
“HB 1807 will give Washington’s public school students and understanding of civics that is rigorous, practical and positive,” he said in an email. “It’ll give them intellectual tools that can carry into their adult lives. I hope these tools will allow them to become engaged and empowered people.”
Walsh added, “OSPI’s dismissive response sounds a bit nervous. Wonder which aspect of HB 1807 makes them so? Rigorous? Practical? Positive? It’s a good bill.”