A proposed bill in West Virginia would require students to be formally taught in public schools about America’s founding before learning about “social problems, economics, foreign affairs, the United Nations, world government, socialism or communism.” Under the bill, teachers who do not follow this progression could be fined.
Currently, the West Virginia curriculum code requires schools to teach “regular courses of instruction by the completion of the twelfth grade in the history of the United States, in civics, in the Constitution of the United States, and in the government of the State of West Virginia.” The proposed legislation, if adopted, would make this requirement more stringent, and would make teachers teach history and sociological studies in a particular order.
The new legislation would mandate students to be enrolled in at least 1.5 years of instruction on America’s founding before graduation. Students would not be able to legally study foreign affairs or topics like socialism or communism before completing courses in United States history and geography. Eleven West Virginia legislators sponsored the bill earlier this month before it was referred to the Committee on Education and Judiciary during this lobby session.
Republican Delegate Michael Moffatt, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Huffington Post the bill is based around the idea that students should be well-versed in American government before learning about the rest of the world’s governments.
“We need to learn more about founding documents first and then learn about the U.N. and other governmental systems.”
What is the reasoning behind this? Moffatt explains that a West Virginia High School was recently under fire for teaching principles of Islam when there are no principles of Christianity in the curriculum. The school in question, Westside High School, let local coal miners use its classrooms for a workshop while students were out of school for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A workshop participant posted pictures of a classroom on Facebook that showed posters “outlining Islamic culture, including food and religious beliefs,” and even though it was not a structured school day, nor part of the curriculum, many people were offended, according to the West Virginia Gazette. Moffatt was one of those that were unhappy with the teaching of part of Muslim culture at school, when he feels that Christianity is not allowed to be taught.
“They learned about Islam with posters up in the school. … They are speaking about Islam and the Islamic faith yet the schools can’t even mention the word ‘Bible’ and Christianity. I do see we are focusing on other religions and belief systems as opposed to learning about the Judeo-Christian founding of our country.”
The bill (HB 2107) also requires study of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, “with an emphasis on the Bill of Rights.”
Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, said he’s been introducing the same bill for at least 10 years. He said he didn’t see the punitive aspects of the legislation until this year, when the bill received more attention than usual. Overington, who has been a lawmaker for 30 years, said he is the longest-serving delegate in the House, and that he personally is not interested in seeing teachers punished, and has received calls from worried teachers that their jobs could be threatened if they are perceived to not follow the proclaimed curriculum. If the bill is taken up in committee, Overington said, he’ll offer an amendment to remove the punishments. However, he said he’d still vote for the bill even if others don’t support taking out the punishments.
Under the new bill, teachers could be fined ten dollars for each teaching infringement. Public school teachers could be removed from the classroom for up to a year.