Opinion: Keep leftist dogma out of Georgia civics education

Rick Cox, who has a son in the Cherokee County school system, holds signs outside the school board chambers in Canton before a meeting Thursday night, May 20, 2021. The building reached capacity and the people in line behind Cox were not allowed in for the start of the meeting. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

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Rick Cox, who has a son in the Cherokee County school system, holds signs outside the school board chambers in Canton before a meeting Thursday night, May 20, 2021. The building reached capacity and the people in line behind Cox were not allowed in for the start of the meeting. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Pat Daugherty is a retired University of Georgia administrator and adjunct assistant professor in UGA’s College of Education. Daugherty is editor of Eagle Forum Insights and Eagle Forum E-Publication Focus on Education. Eagle Forum is a conservative interest group.

In a guest column, Daugherty details her concerns about the Georgia Commission on Civics Education approved by the Legislature this year. The Georgia Civics Renewal Act creates a 17-member commission charged with reviewing “the conditions, needs, issues, and problems related to civics education in Georgia schools” and issuing an annual report to the General Assembly with possible recommendations for changes.

By Pat Daugherty

Amidst national concern about the abysmal ignorance of civics among young people, the Georgia Legislature has created a Georgia Commission on Civics Education to make recommendations for improvement. What appears to be a good first step in educating kids about their country, however, is poised to become a Trojan horse for introducing leftist dogma into the curriculum.

Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods must ensure through their appointments to the commission, and their participation in its deliberations, that this does not happen.

Nationally, progressive educators have seized on civics and history courses as a means of teaching students that America is systemically racist and oppressive, as well as how to agitate for leftist causes to change it. Critical race theory (state-sanctioned racism harping on “white privilege”) and associated dangerous nonsense (the propaganda of historian Howard Zinn, perhaps, or the 1619 Project) become the foundation for classroom instruction. Complementary “action civics” — political agitation for course credit — encourages students to put their newfound political religion into practice.

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Pat Daugherty

Credit: Courtesy photo

Pat Daugherty

Credit: Courtesy photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Pat Daugherty

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

Although “action civics” may sound like a good way to engage students, in practice it detracts from what teachers should be doing — teaching the foundations of our American republic, and having students assess and debate the pros and cons of policy decisions. What happens with action civics is that immature and poorly prepared adolescents latch onto the cause du jour (a popular one is gun control, while others include anti-racism, lowering the voting age to 16, “biased” school discipline, etc.), and reluctant classmates go along to get along.

What 16-year-old wants to be left out of the current enthusiasm — especially when a course grade is riding on it?

National left-leaning groups see such supposedly bipartisan initiatives as vehicles for imposition of critical race theory and leftist action civics. Unless the Georgia commission forecloses that possibility, this will happen in Georgia as well.

At the heart of the civics education debate is whether you believe America has historically been essentially good or essentially bad. Most Georgia parents want their children to be taught that America has overwhelmingly been a force for good in the world, and that historical failures such as slavery and racism have been and continue to be addressed through the genius of our constitutional structure.

Some civics organizations take a different view, embracing the “woke” dogma of decrying “institutional racism” and advocating for action civics designed to dismantle this allegedly racist structure.

The contention is that minority students can successfully learn civics only if they focus on critical race theory’s fundamentally racist tenets. Georgia parents want their children to have genuine civics education. They want them to understand how government works and, more importantly, to develop a knowledge of and deep appreciation for the genius of our Constitution. They won’t get that unless the Georgia Commission on Civics Education explicitly endorses that model rather than one that seeks to indoctrinate students and turn them into activists.

It would be a shame if well-intentioned GOP leaders blunder into the trap of enhancing leftist influence in public schools — in the process, creating a miseducated citizenry that will govern our state in the future. Gov. Kemp and members of the commission must not allow that to happen.

Pat Daugherty, the author of this guest column, is a retired University of Georgia administrator.