State Representative Jeff Shipley of Iowa has just introduced a bill (House File 194) that is both brief and excellent:
An Act directing that students be required to read and demonstrate comprehension of excerpts from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book “The Gulag Archipelago” as a condition of high school graduation.
The NAS asked Representative Shipley why he introduced the bill. Shipley said, “I could barely find a high school student or history teacher who could tell me what ‘USSR’ meant.” Shipley added that he was “also getting pretty tired of people waving the hammer and sickle without any clue of the suffering that symbol caused.”
These are both excellent reasons to have high school students read from The Gulag Archipelago, besides its exceptional literary quality. The NAS encourages Iowa residents to get in touch with their representatives to speak in favor of Representative Shipley’s bill.
The NAS also encourages more far-reaching reform of high school graduation requirements. Rep. Shipley’s bill addresses only one symptom of the widespread abandonment of proper history and civics at both the K-12 and college level. The different states need coordinated measures to reform their high school graduation requirements, their public university distribution requirements, and their K-12 teacher certification requirements, so as to teach history and civics seriously. They also need to initiate drastic measures to reduce the numbers of education bureaucrats at both the K-12 and the college level, to improve educational standards, efficiently use tax resources, and to remove another redoubt of political indoctrination.
But Representative Shipley’s bill is an excellent experiment for this larger project. We hope it passes.