New Ohio American Birthright Bill

National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance are delighted that Representatives Don Jones and Tracy Richardson have introduced House Bill 103—and that Representatives Brett Hudson Hillyer, Gayle Manning, Gail K. Pavliga, Jean Schmidt, and Bill Seitz have joined them as co-sponsors.

HB 103 would create the Ohio Social Studies Standards Task Force, which would be charged to use American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards as the basis for new K-12 social studies standards for Ohio, along with documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance, the Constitution of the United States and its amendments, with emphasis on the Bill of Rights, and the Ohio Constitution.

American Birthright teaches students to identify the ideals, institutions, and individual examples of human liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government; assess the extent to which civilizations have fulfilled these ideals; and describe how the evolution of these ideals in different times and places has contributed to the formation of modern American ideals. Above all, American Birthright teaches about the expansion of American liberty to include all Americans, the contributions that Americans from every walk of life have made to our shared history of liberty, America’s championship of liberty throughout the world, and heroes of liberty such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan.

The Ohio State Social Studies Task Force would consist of nine members appointed by the House speaker, the Senate president, and the governor. The purpose of the task force is to address “vague content statements and disparity of social studies instruction.” The task force, with substantial and broad ranging public input, would draft standards for legislative approval. The task force would allow legislators to implement legislative changes for the 2024–2025 school year.

We are honored that Representatives Jones and Richardson have introduced a bill that would make American Birthright the basis for Ohio’s new K-12 social studies standards. We crafted American Birthright to model improved social studies education, which would appeal to a broad majority of Americans. It is wonderful that elected representatives should judge that American Birthright will forward the education of their state’s students.

We also are grateful to Representative Jones and Richardson, and to the legislative draftsmen on their staffs. When we published American Birthright, we did not include a precise legislative means by which state legislators could put it into effect. HB 103 provides that means. HB 103, moreover, includes several excellent features.

  • HB 103 makes American Birthright the basis for new social studies standards, not a rigid framework, and charges the task force to adapt it while seeking broad public input. It thereby ensures that American Birthright will be adapted to fit Ohio’s particular needs.
  • The task force’s draft standards will have to be approved by the education committees of both legislative houses, and then pass by concurrent resolution in both legislative chambers. The new standards will need broad political support to be approved—but the use of the concurrent resolution ensures that the standards will be approved swiftly, once that broad political support has been acquired.
  • The standards will be in effect for five years—at which point, they will be subject to review by a new task force. This provision ensures that there will be a timely opportunity to improve the standards, informed by experience of how they work in the classroom.

We are so impressed with HB 103 that we have used it as the basis for our new model American Birthright Taskforce Act. The Act abstracts the language of HB 103, to remove the specific Ohio references. The Act offers a means for policymakers in every state a flexible, accountable, and efficient means to remove the power to draft state social studies standards from the state education departments, all too frequently opponents of social studies standards reform—but to ensure that the new standards will be accountable to a broad consensus of policymakers and the public.

Different states have different political complexions. The Act is best suited for states where the governor and both houses of the legislature all are committed to education reform. Policymakers in each state should judge whether the political conditions in their states are appropriate for the introduction of the Act.

In the long run, HB 103 is a model for the nation—but in the short run, it should become law in Ohio. The National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance heartily endorse HB 103, and we urge Ohio’s legislators to pass this bill and Governor DeWine to sign it.


Photo by jzehnder on Adobe Stock

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