A Louisiana state representative has shelved a bill that would require students to recite a passage from the Declaration of Independence after opposition from other lawmakers.
The Declaration of Independence (from Great Britain) by the 13 original colonies was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, prompting the Revolutionary War and subsequently the establishment of the U.S. as a free and sovereign nation.
Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican, sponsored the legislation, House Bill 1035, that would have required fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade students to recite a key passage from the founding document as part of basic American history education.
"...WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness..."Although Hodges' proposal gained approval from the Louisiana House Education Committee, it ran into strong opposition from Rep. Barbara Norton, a Shreveport Democrat, among others. During a floor debate in the House chamber, Norton suggested that the whole idea of kids reciting the Declaration of Independence was inappropriate because only caucasians were free in 1776, thereby apparently raising the implication of racism.
"Representative Hodges: I'm not really sure what your intent is, but one thing that I do know is, all men are not created equal. When I think back to 1776, July the 4th, African-Americans were slaves, and for you to bring a bill to request that our children recite the Declaration—I think it's a little bit unfair to us, to ask those children to recite something that's not the truth..."Rep. Norton added that the Declaration was not then "validated" (although it is unclear what she meant by that terminology) and that schools would be teaching students "a lie" because slavery was in effect in 1776 if the Louisiana law is enacted.
Norton and her colleagues also introduced amendments that would require the recitation of passages from other historic documents including Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech, which Hodges dismissed as "poison pills" designed to prevent the standalone legislation from moving forward, The Advocate reported.
Rep. Hodges claimed she was "astonished" that other lawmakers expressed such resistance to the bill.
"The Declaration of Independence is the cornerstone of our republic. The American mind is expressed in those documents."The Declaration of Independence was part of a legacy of voter suppression during the Jim Crow era in the south, Hodges' opponents insisted.
"Norton and another representative, Patricia Haynes Smith, also argued against the bill since it bears resemblance to the literacy tests used to disenfranchise black people during the Jim Crow era. In some cases, voters would be asked to read or recite the entirety of the Declaration of Independence before they were allowed to vote," the Daily Mail explained.The Louisiana House session officially ends on June 6, so the measure appears to be tabled indefinitely unless some form of bipartisan compromise can be reached.
"The Louisiana House of Representatives has 61 Republican members out of 105, and yet it was apparent no consensus for a cornerstone of basic civics in the state's public schools was available to the bill's supporters. And yet, the bill did serve to provide a bit of civic education for the people of Louisiana -- although perhaps not the lesson Rep. Hodges was looking for," The Hayride website observed about the controversy."House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, a member of the [education] committee, noted then that the Declaration of Independence was written at a time when men, women, and African-Americans were not considered equal," The Advocate added.
During the floor debate, Rep. Hodges claimed that Dr. King praised "the magnificent words" contained in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Separately, in the clip below from The Steve Harvey Show, Hillary Clinton confuses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in a discussion about gun control.Do you think that there is racism inherent in the Declaration of Independence?
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