The First Circuit rejected students’ claim of a Constitutional right to civics education.

Judge Denise Casper of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals made an important point while dismissing an appeal by Providence students seeking to assert a right to more-extensive civics education in public schools:

Citing earlier cases, the First Circuit said no other court suggested teaching a specific subject was required by the constitution, save, perhaps, basic literacy — reading and writing. The Sixth Circuit recently looked at an education case, Casper wrote, where it determined literacy is vital for a student to have a chance at grasping political and economic opportunities. Furthermore, a lack of civics education, Casper wrote, does not prevent a student from participating “in a functioning democracy.”

Citing the limited resources at the disposal of most teachers and myriad demands upon the education system, Casper wrote: “We do not doubt the importance of the civics curriculum proffered by the Students and their amici, but we also do not doubt the importance of reading, science and math, both for providing a basic education and for preparing students to succeed in higher education and the workforce.”

By elevating the question to subjects that are logically prior to civics, Casper’s ruling implies a question:  Why aren’t these students in court over the state’s abysmal failure to teach them reading, math, and science?  And public education in the state is an abysmal failure.

Perhaps the reason is that a broad argument that the system is failing at what it is presumably trying to do would implicate powerful, progressive special interest groups like the teacher unions.

Astute observers will notice a peculiar disconnect in the current lawsuit.  Students who filed a lawsuit over civics education proved by doing so that they have learned some advanced lessons about how our civic system works.  At most, they can complain that they had to learn what they know from progressive activist groups rather than in the classroom, which might, itself, be a good argument for a revamped civics curriculum if it weren’t so certain that progressive activist groups would craft that, too.

The involvement of those activists, however deleterious it might be to the students and to our community, does partially solve the mystery of why the students chose this subject over which to sue.  After all, for what better outcome could progressives hope than to produce a generation of illiterate and innumerate activists who don’t understand how the natural world works but can game the political and legal systems?


Featured image by Maick Maciel on Unsplash.

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