Tenn. House panel advances bill requiring schools to teach Constitution

Hank Hayes • Feb 11, 2014 at 11:29 PM

NASHVILLE — Amended legislation requiring Tennessee’s public schools to teach the U.S. Constitution and other foundational documents in government classes advanced out of a state House Education Committee by a 12-2 vote Tuesday.

The bill has passed in the state Senate and is sponsored in the House by state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville.

Hill’s amended bill would also require the state Board of Education to issue a report about compliance with the requirement.

“This would require teaching of the U.S. Constitution, the Tennessee Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Tennessee history to be taught in public schools,” Hill said of his legislation to the committee.

All public schools are urged under current law to include, at some appropriate grade level in high school, courses educating students in United States government, according to a draft of the bill.

Hill’s draft legislation also noted present law requires the state textbook commission to recommend textbooks to the state Board of Education for use in public schools.

“...The commission must strive to recommend textbooks that accurately and comprehensively portray the full range of diversity and achievement of racial and ethnic minorities as well as the role and importance of religion in history,” the draft bill pointed out. “...The text must describe the factual circumstances of advances in political liberty, economic and technological progress, and the success of the United States as a leader in the age of industry, with emphasis on the political and cultural elements that distinguished America in this era from other nations, past and contemporary. Appropriate commentary would include descriptions of religious, ethnic and cultural values that took America on a different course from other nations.”

At the high school level, the state Board of Education stressed in a policy document that students will study the purposes, principles, and practices of American government as established by the Constitution.

“Students are expected to understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens and how to exercise these rights and responsibilities in local, state, and national government,” the document stated. “Students will learn the structure and processes of the government of the state of Tennessee and various local governments. The reading of primary source documents is a key feature of United States Government and Civics standards.”

But the state Board of Education also said students won’t have to face end-of-course tests in social studies.

The state Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, calls for the legislation to go into effect July 1.

For more go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 1129.

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