Minnesotans for Better Education, Standards and Testing

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Bachmann and Olsen try to pass a law legalizing Social Studies

Are founding documents being ignored?

The answer is no, but only thanks to the citizens who stood up to the Maple River Coalition and Bachmann last year.
The MRC wanted to ignore that pesky document called the CONSTITUTION.
They are also not crazy about the 1st Amendment.

More info available at http://dumpbachmann.blogspot.com

Norman Draper,
Star Tribune
March 30, 2005

They don't rock. They're squiggly-looking and hard to read. Most of them are old enough by a long shot to be museum artifacts.

America's founding documents might not have been written for an MTV-raised generation, but a couple of Minnesota legislators figure they deserve a lot more respect than they've been getting in the classroom.

Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, and Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, have introduced legislation designed to make it easier for teachers to make such documents as the Mayflower Compact, the Federalist Papers, the Gettysburg Address and the U.S. Constitution part of their classroom instruction. Their bills would order school districts to "permit" teachers to read, study and post any documents relating to the history of the United States or Minnesota.

But is that necessary?

Many of the documents cited as examples in Olson's bill, for instance, are already cited as examples for use in the state's current social studies academic standards. Critics say that there's nothing in the law now that discourages teaching such bedrock documents, and that teachers haven't been complaining about being censored in their use of materials. They wonder why a law is needed here.

"Is there somewhere in state law where we discourage departure from the textbook?" wondered Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, whose Senate Education Committee discussed the Senate bill Tuesday.

Bachmann and Olson say teachers nationwide have shied away from such documents because of fears that they'll be introducing religious references contained in them. Younger teachers, they say, might be fearful of teaching outside the confines of the textbook, and this legislation would make it easier for them to be bolder in using original historical documents. Also, Olson and Bachmann said that they believe that there's too much that's negative being taught about American history, and not enough about the positive documents that formed the nation. And maybe they're not being taught at all, or being taught in severely abridged versions.

"I'm very concerned that these things are not being done now," Olson said. "Looking back, I came to realize these things were being removed. I began to learn these things after I got out of school, and came to appreciate them." Olson has introduced similar bills in past legislative sessions without success.

Bachmann cited a California case in which teachers were forbidden from teaching the Declaration of Independence and some of George Washington's writings because of the references to God and religion.

Under her bill, she said, "districts would not be able to limit or restrain instruction if there are religious references in any of these documents."

But some critics say the bills give teachers carte blanche to do whatever they want and render administrators powerless to control instruction that might be deemed inappropriate. What, wondered Bob Meeks, executive director of the Minnesota School Boards Association, is there in the proposals to prevent a teacher from blurting out passages of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" during a physical education class?

Neither bill is connected to last year's controversy over new state social studies academic standards, said the authors. Yet during last year's debate there were similar concerns to those voiced by Bachmann and Olson that too much of the positive side of American history was being left out of classroom instruction.

Both bills are pending in the education committees.

Norman Draper is at ndraper@startribune.com.