Editor's Note: The following is an open letter to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) regarding their support for the Civics Secures Democracy Act. The Civics Secures Democracy Act, despite claims to the contrary, is an effort to smuggle progressive action civics into American K-12 classrooms under the guise of bipartisanship.
Signatories sign as individuals. Organizational affiliations and positions are listed for identification purposes only.
To view our database of proposed American civics education legislation, click here. To view the National Association of Scholars' own model civics bills, click here. To join the Civics Alliance, click here.
Dear Senator Cornyn and Representative Cole,
We urge you to withdraw your support for the Civics Secures Democracy Act. Recent actions by the Biden Administration will prevent this legislation from supporting impartial civics education and will instead direct the funds it authorizes to subsidize ideologically partisan political activism. We believe you can best achieve your original aims to support impartial civics education by rescinding your support for this legislation.
We sympathize with your original desire to support civics education. America would indeed benefit from properly designed civics education, which teaches students to take pride in what they share as Americans—for example, an exceptional heritage of freedom, a republic that has made liberty a fundamental principle of our government, and the joyful accomplishments of their common national culture. We also support civics education that teaches the founding principles and documents of the United States, the key events of American history, the structure of our self-governing federal republic, and the spirit of liberty and tolerance that should animate our private interactions with our fellow citizens.
We also understand why you would have taken to be innocuous the precise language of several subsections of the Civics Secures Democracy Act, which, for example, prioritize funding for “media literacy,” “evidence-based practices,” and to “improve knowledge and engagement ... [among] traditionally underserved” students. Education professionals often use phrases such as these as code for support for Action Civics, which provides vocational training for ideologically partisan protest and lobbying, and for Critical Race Theory, which teaches students that America is a “systemically racist” country.
Yet the Civics Secures Democracy Act will forward Action Civics and Critical Race Theory. It will provide vast federal funding for this radical program and it will impose enormous political pressure on the states to do the same. Just as the Education Department’s Race to the Top Fund gave the cash-strapped states an irresistible incentive to adopt Common Core, and thereby imposed de facto federal control on state standards and curriculum, so the Civics Secures Democracy Act will give the federal government de facto power to impose Action Civics and Critical Race Theory on the states.
The Civics Secures Democracy Act would have produced this result, even absent the Biden Administration’s latest initiative.1 Yet the Biden Education Department’s Proposed Rule “Proposed Priorities-American History and Civics Education,” makes explicit this consequence.2 This rule, which will apply to all American History and Civics Education programs, will require programs funding applicants to satisfy a checklist of ideologically partisan priorities, including that they “Take into account systemic marginalization, biases, inequities, and discriminatory policy and practice in American history.” The Proposed Rule approvingly cites The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which has been widely criticized by thoughtful scholars as a polemic riddled with historical errors.3 The Biden administration’s proposed new rule also approvingly cites the so-called “antiracism” of Ibram X. Kendi, who writes that “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”4 Kendi explicitly advocates discrimination by race, and supports changes to our constitutional republic hostile to our most basic liberties.5 These citations provide more than sufficient proof of how the Biden Administration will use any funds devoted to American History and Civics Education: to fund programs aligned with the historically inaccurate polemic of the 1619 Project and the overtly illiberal so-called “antiracism” of Kendi.
The Proposed Rule does more than reveal administrative language. It reveals the mindset and the intentions of the Education Department administrators who will oversee the programs authorized by the Civics Secures Democracy Act. These administrators have revealed that they prefer partisan and illiberal political activism to authentic civic education. These preferences will continue even if they modify the language of the Proposed Rule. They will administer the Civics Secure Democracy Act’s proposed programs to transform civics education into a vessel to secure these troubling ends. In short, the language of this bill cannot be “fixed.” So long as the Biden administration administers these funds, the bill will impose ideological partisanship and activism on America’s schools.
Other concerns weigh against passing the Civics Secures Democracy Act. As the history of Common Core illustrates, federal intervention and control have damaged American education nationwide. The states, the localities, and civil society are better equipped to determine education policy than the federal government. These levels of government and society, not the federal government, are best equipped to determine how to improve civics education. In this regard, it should be noted that the Act’s revisions of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also threaten to provide a backdoor route to imposing a de facto national curriculum in history and civics.
Even if we set aside these concerns, the Biden Administration’s Proposed Rule by itself transforms the expected result of the Civics Secures Democracy Act. The Proposed Rule confirms that the Act will not achieve what you originally desired, support for civics education that teaches students to take pride in and to preserve their republic and its exceptional heritage of freedom. It will instead replace genuine civics education with partisan training in political activism.
The Biden Administration’s new Proposed Rule more than warrants a decision on your part to withdraw your support for the Civics Secures Democracy Act.
We write as citizens concerned about the state of education in history and civics, and as members of the Civics Alliance convened by the National Association of Scholars. We invite other members of the Civics Alliance, and other interested citizens, to join this letter as signatories.
Mark Bauerlein, Professor Emeritus of English, Emory University
Brandon Dutcher, Senior Vice President, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
Frank Gaffney, Founder and Executive Chairman, Center for Security Policy
John Hinderaker, President, Center of the American Experiment
Sheryl Kaufman, Congressional Communications Director, Former Congressman Jim Bridenstine
Katherine Kersten, Senior Policy Fellow, Center of the American Experiment
Roger Kimball, Editor and Publisher, The New Criterion
Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Arthur Milikh, Executive Director, The Claremont Institute, Center for the American Way of Life
David Randall, Project Director, Civics Alliance
Jenna A. Robinson, President, James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
Christopher Rufo, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute
Eunie Smith, President Emeritus, Eagle Forum
Ginni Thomas, President, Liberty Consulting
Ryan Williams, President, The Claremont Institute
Peter Wood, President, National Association of Scholars
Carolee Adams, President, Eagle Forum of New Jersey
Elena Ancarrow, Retired School District Administrator
Ed Barron, Senior Vice President of Engineering
Michael Bender, Clinical Professor of Medicine Emeritus, UCSF
Caroline Beno, Elementary Teacher, Visalia Unified School District
Susan Birchem, Office Administrator
Kelly Bishop, Educator
Walter Bowen, Business Systems Analyst
Mike Bradford, Pastor
Mark Branyon, Customer Service, James Avery Craftsman, Inc
Bruce Caldwell, Research Professor of Economics, Duke University
Alexei Chemiakine, Scientist, Columbia University Medical Center
Barbara Chu, Engineer (Retired)
Jessica Cline, Teacher, Irving Independent School District
Joshua Coots, Teacher, Duneland School Corporation
Ed DeLucie, Former Village Trustee, Valley Stream
Susan Dennison, Teacher (Retired)
Wesley Denton, COO, Conservative Partnership Institute
Robert Dixon, Retired Military Officer
John Drew, Sales Manager
John Droz, Physicist, Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED)
Susan DuBose, President, Republican Women of North Shelby County
Kay Dunn, Precinct Chair, Ellis County Republican Party, Texas
Will Fitzhugh, Founder, The Concord Review
John Flenniken, Ministry Staff (Retired)
John Fonte, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
John Foster, Retired Army Officer
Daniel Hammond, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Wake Forest University
Robin Harrison, Owner, Design Solutions DFW
Stan Hartzler, Professor/Teacher (Retired)
Cora Hill, School Teacher (Retired)
Damon Hines, Police Officer
Richard Homan, Turning Point USA
Nancy Huff, President, Teach the Children International
Steven Jones, Former Irving Independent School Board President
Claude Judd, Owner, Texas Insurance Exchange
Dennis Kaptain, Software Engineer
John Keen, Former School Board Member, RBHS Riverside Illinois
William Kellar, Professor (Retired), University of Houston
Dennis King, Attorney
Adam Kissel, Senior Fellow, Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy
Don Koonce, Storyteller, American Stories Inc
Steve Korson, Engineer
Robert Krapohl, Library Director and Adjunct Instructor, Lyon College
Laurel La Framboise
Jon Le Sage
Isaac Long, District Operations Manager, Alpha Pack Militia
Jon Longerbone, Attorney (Retired)
Sheryl Longin, CEO, Diplomatch
Michael Looney, Retired Tax Lawyer/Accountant
Mike Lowry, Owner, Lowry Properties, Inc.
Ronald D. Maszk Jr.
Madonna Miller, Registered Nurse
Kevin Moore, Former Instructor, TCU
Merle Morris, Attorney
Paul Mosher, System Analyst
Bob Murphy, Engineer
Barbara Nelson, Attorney
Matthew Niemiera, President, Lonestar Rehabilitation
Timothy O'Flaherty, School Teacher
Marlene Parker, Teacher (Retired)
Lynn Parks, Pastor, Eastwood Baptist Church
James Perlstein, JKP LLC
Jason Poe, Financial Advisor, Raymond James Financial Services
Don Rhudy, Doctor of Psychology and Counseling, Incarnate Word Hospital System (Retired) and Private Practice
Tricia Russell, VP, CM Architect
Wayne Russell, Principal, The Paladin Group
Jacquelyn Shepherd, Admin. Assistant, LSC
Steve Skinner, Engineer
Jo Anne Szczyglowski, Retired Teacher
Stephen Takacs, US Navy Retired
Lewis Toland, English Professor Emeritus, NMMI
Michael VanOrsdale, Music Industry Executive (Retired)
David White, Past Chairman, Kay County Republican Party, Oklahoma
Dean Williamson, Research Economist, Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice
J.R. Wilson, Co-Founder, Truth in American Education
Mike Wilson, CEO, Cowboy Electrical Services Inc.