Civics Education Becomes the Latest Battlefield in the Culture War for Republicans

Conservative lawmakers are increasingly targeting public schools as a central battleground in their efforts to wage a culture war. Their focus is on attacking educational institutions as a strategic way to solidify their conservative social policy.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has implemented extensive reforms in education with the aim of restricting the inclusion of topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and racism, as reported by AP News. Similarly, in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin focused his successful 2021 campaign on advocating for parental rights in education and addressing the teaching of racial equity, as highlighted by ABC News.

In Wisconsin, state lawmakers are currently advocating for a civics education bill that places a strong emphasis on “patriotism.” This bill, which was recently introduced to the Wisconsin State Senate in early January, has raised concerns as it seeks to impose an ideological bias onto the public education curriculum. Critics argue that this move is just another attempt by the Republican state government to exert control over public education in Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin has further solidified its reputation as a leading research and STEM institution with the acceptance of a $150 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH). This significant funding will support the university’s in-depth study of neurobiology, allowing for groundbreaking advancements in this field. The grant serves as a testament to UW’s dedication to scientific research and its commitment to pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

The introduction of bill SB 898 is a response to the inadequacy of civics education in the state. Research conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center has highlighted this deficiency. Their polling reveals that as of 2023, only 77 percent of adults were aware that freedom of speech is protected by the first amendment. Shockingly, 17 percent of adults did not possess knowledge of the three branches of government.

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There are, however, some clear concerns regarding the ideology and effectiveness of the bill. The bill mandates the inclusion of oral testimonies that showcase patriotism, as well as accounts from individuals who have suffered under other nations’ governing ideologies. It also highlights the differences between United States democracy and totalitarianism. It is evident that this curriculum carries an inherent bias towards exceptionalism.

Tainting education with American exceptionalism can have detrimental effects. The essence of a strong democracy lies in the free exchange of ideas and robust discussions. When we enforce a specific ideology, it hampers individuals’ capacity to objectively evaluate the actions of our nation. Progress and advancements in our system can only be achieved when we have the freedom to acknowledge and address the flaws within the American system.

The irony lies in the fact that the Republican Party is now highlighting the distinction between American democracy and totalitarianism, considering that Donald Trump, the de facto leader of the party and a strong contender for the 2024 Republican primary, tried to undermine the very system through the January 6th insurrection, as reported by AP News.

Furthermore, the perspective being promoted by lawmakers does not coincide with objective evaluations of our democracy. In fact, Freedom House, a non-profit organization that evaluates a country’s level of freedom based on various criteria related to political rights and civil liberties, has assigned the United States a score of 83 out of 100 in their 2023 freedom index.

Many other democratic countries have scores ranging from the mid nineties to perfect scores. This report shows that the United States is not immune to criticism of its institutions. Therefore, it is crucial to teach a curriculum that acknowledges the flaws in our democracy in order to make necessary improvements.

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have been increasingly focused on pushing their ideology in public schooling, with the civics bill being the latest example of this concerning trend. The University of Wisconsin has also become a target of the Republican-controlled state legislature.

These Republican-sponsored bills being introduced throughout the country are essentially attempts to exert control, disguised as measures to improve education or protect parental rights. While the new civics bill is presented as a means to enhance civics education, it may actually prove to be more of a hindrance than a solution.

Republicans Lack Seriousness in Marijuana Reform

Despite the increasing number of states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, Republicans have been slow to embrace reform. However, a recent State Supreme Court case may force them to reconsider their stance.

Currently, 38 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and 24 states have legalized it for recreational purposes. Some neighboring states to Wisconsin have already taken steps towards legalization. This growing trend puts pressure on Republicans to address the issue.

The Wisconsin state Department of Public Instruction opposed the bill during the testimony, stating that it imposes significant demands on schools without considering the resources needed to meet those demands, as reported by WPR. The DPI is currently undertaking efforts to revamp civics education in the state, making the proposed Republican bill largely unnecessary.

Republicans have made their intentions clear with this bill: they want to impose their ideology on public school students without fully considering the consequences.

Patriotism should be earned by a government rather than taught. When we demand a positive perspective of our government and its founding, we hinder the ability to objectively criticize the system. By overlooking the contrasts between American democracy and totalitarianism, we fail to recognize the potential presence of totalitarianism within our own democracy. It is crucial for our public schools to be free from mandated views or ideologies, and instead, focus on equipping students with the necessary tools to develop their own perspectives.

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