Sixth Grade students in Bryant, Arkansas were given a curious assignment as part of theCommon Core curriculum. The History class at Bryant Middle School had an assignment aimed at inspiring persuasive and engaging presentations. All the groups of eleven year olds had to do was prioritize and revise the Bill of Rights.
The History class work is premised on the idea that the government of the United States has determined that the Bill of Rights is outdated. The assignment asked students to assume the persona of an excerpt on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights named to the "National Revised Bill of Rights (NRBR) Task Force, which is charged with ensuring that the "pursuit of happiness remains guarded in the 21st Century". The substantial objective of this exercise was to excise two Amendments and add two Amendments.
This exercise was fundamentally flawed on its substance. This faux NRBR task force was supposed to protect the "pursuit of happiness". But that phrase is in the Declaration of Independence (1776) not the Bill of Rights.
These middle school students had not been schooled on the reasons why the Bill of Rights was introduced by James Madison in 1789 and ratified in 1791. They have no idea that the Constitution would not have been ratified by several of the States without the prospect of a Bill of Rights. Obviously, the arguments by the Federalists and Anti-Federalists would be far beyond their ken in civics.
The Bryant School District is proud to embrace the Common Core standards to improve students literacy and math skills. Common Core seeks to augment these skill sets through interdisciplinary learning. Thus this History assignment was supposed to test reading, writing and language skills on informational texts.
Unfortunately, this History exercise was premised on the Patriot Act debate, which is asking a lot of middle school students, particularly without the background knowledge of history or civics. Moreover, the instructions of the exercise circumvents the Constitution Amendment process in trying to prune and update it. The subject matter is so cutting edge, it is hard not to believe that the teacher will not color the debate and the student presentations. Such shaping of opinion in the guise of education shows why some conservatives are so chary about Common Core.
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