GOP bill would defund schools who don't force students to memorize patriotic texts

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The bill's sponsor, Missouri Republican Rep. Jason Smith, once decried federal involvement in determining local school curriculums.

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) wants to make sure kids are taught to be patriotic in their schools. His new bill would strip federal funding from any school that does not force them to memorize his selected historical texts.

On Wednesday, Smith filed H.R.4923, the Love America Act. If enacted, it would, according to its official title, "prohibit Federal funding for educational agencies and schools whose students do not read certain foundational texts of the United States and are not able to recite those texts or that teach that those texts are products of white supremacy or racism."

Reps. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) and Barry Moore (R-AL) signed on as original co-sponsors. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) filed a companion bill in the Senate on July 26.

"Americans have every reason to be proud of the ideals our country was founded on, but radical, left-wing education activists are hijacking school curriculums and injecting poisonous ideology onto our nation's youth," Smith was quoted as saying in a press release issued by his office. "These Critical Race Theory advocates seek to reframe our founding as racist in an effort to turn America into an unrecognizable socialist country. America's foundational texts are the shining lights for every free and prosperous nation across the globe. This legislation will empower those who love our country to instill the same sense of pride in America that has been passed down through the generations."

The bills as currently written would not just encourage patriotic education; they would block all federal funding to any school that does not teach U.S. history as the bills mandate.

According to the Senate version:

Federal funds shall only be provided to an educational agency or school in which —

 

(1) students in the first grade read and are able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance;

(2) students in the fourth grade read the Constitution of the United States and are able to recite its preamble;
(3) students in the eighth grade read the Declaration of Independence and are able to recite its preamble; and
(4) students in the tenth grade read and are able to identify the Bill of Rights.

It would also bar funding if a school teaches that any of those documents are a "product of white supremacy or racism."

According to information found on the website of children's book publisher Scholastic, not all first graders can typically read unfamiliar multisyllabic words like "indivisible" and "allegiance." And reciting the more than 200-word preamble to the Declaration of Independence might prove challenging to adults, let alone eighth graders.

A spokesperson for Smith did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

In October 2017, Smith told students that he believed in local control of schools. "Missouri educators are the best people to make curriculum decisions for Missouri students," he argued. "We don't need the federal government stepping in at every turn."

The bill is the latest in a series of GOP proposals to bar anti-racism education.

They seek to remove from school curriculums basic details of American history, including that the Constitution contained a clause counting slaves as three-fifths of a person for apportionment of congressional seats; that anti-slavery language included by Thomas Jefferson in the draft of the Declaration of Independence was deleted before its adoption; and that the final Declaration included a clause calling Native Americans "the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.