Report: Many universities not meeting requirements to teach the Constitution

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According to South Carolina State Rep. Garry Smith, multiple South Carolina colleges and universities, including Clemson University, are not teaching the Constitution and other U.S. founding documents.

The teaching of these foundational documents is required by law. The South Carolina Code of Laws statute 59-29-120 states the following:

“All high schools, colleges, and universities in this State that are sustained or in any manner supported by public funds shall give instruction in the essentials of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers… The instruction provided for in Section 59-29-120 shall be given for at least one year of the high school, college and university grades, respectively.”

Statute 59-29-150 specifically mentions the “willful neglect or failure” on the responsibility of the head of a South Carolina public college or university to carry out the requirements, “shall be sufficient cause for the dismissal or removal of such person from his position.”

Currently, Clemson University does not require the study of the founding documents for one year, the Daily Caller reported. Instead, Clemson requires three credit hours in “cross cultural awareness.”

A mandatory class for Clemson freshmen was a module titled, “Our Nation’s Founding Documents.” Students were required to read several documents pertaining to U.S. founding documents, watch an hour-long video, and take a quiz on the material. The module’s overview states, “Clemson University is required by state law to offer this module,” and references SC statute 59-29-120. However, U.S. Founding Documents were in no way the main focus of the class, which is ultimately graded as a “zero-credit, pass/no pass course.”

In a 2015 survey of public South Carolina colleges and universities by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, 42 percent of Clemson students revealed that they don’t take courses on U.S. founding documents.

The survey also revealed that the problem isn’t just at Clemson University. According to the survey, University of South Carolina (USC), The Citadel, College of Charleston, Francis Marion University, Lander University, SC State, and Winthrop don’t explicitly require students to study the founding documents for one year. USC President Harris Pastides even believes the statute needs to be altered.

“It appears that an update of these statutes remains necessary to strike the balance between compliance and application,” said Pastides. “The strict application of Section § 59-29-130 would create an academic logjam.”

Rep. Smith believes noncompliance with the law is a major issue. “I think it’s relevant,” Rep. Smith told The Daily Caller, discussing statute 59-29-120. “One of the problems we have is that those students who graduate aren’t really prepared to be good citizens in a representative democracy.”

Smith dissented even further:

“The Higher Education Commission is supposed to fire the president of the university, which it can’t do. That’s a problem with the current law. South Carolina universities have gotten the feeling that they’re independent to the point that they don’t even comply with and they’re not a part of the state overall financial system.”

“It shows a lack of understanding about their representative republic. You wonder who is teaching them, what they’re teaching them, and how they got such a warped sense of governance.”

 

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