American History Act

INTRODUCTION

Almost no public university requires students to study American History or American Government unless they are required to by a state law. Unless state policymakers require such courses, most public university students will not take basic survey courses in American History or American Government.

Eight states already require undergraduates at public universities to take one course (3 semester credit hours) in American History and/or American Government: Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. One state, Texas, requires undergraduates at public universities to take two courses (6 semester credit hours) in American History and another two courses (6 semester credit hours) in American Government.

We provide two versions of the American History Act. The first requires only one course in American History and American Government, while the second, on the Texas model, requires four courses.

We have added the word “survey” to our model language, since many public universities recently have tried to evade the spirit of the law by offering specialized courses to meet statute requirements. San Diego State University, for example, allows students to satisfy California’s American Institution requirements with courses in Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, or Chicana and Chicano Studies.

A legislature cannot provide an entire curriculum, but it can provide enough details to suggest legislative intent. Our model language, therefore, provides a skeleton of curricular details to embody that legislative intent. We have included most of these details in our DEFINITIONS. We believe our Definitions provide a good sense of what an American History and American Government curriculum should include.

A legislature cannot prescribe in detail how a class should be taught, but it can suggest legislative intent as to the general spirit. Our model language, therefore, includes the phrases “study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals” and “study of and devotion to America’s exceptional and praiseworthy history.” 

State policymakers, the public, and students all should have the ability to see how well individual classes fulfill the legal requirement to teach American History and American Government. Our model language, therefore, includes provisions, modeled on existing statutory requirements in Texas (Texas Education Code, Sec. 51.974 Internet Access to Course Information), to require universities to publish the syllabi of their American History and American Government classes.

Each university’s general education requirement is also a financial burden on students. Our model language therefore specifies that these courses will also satisfy Social Sciences general education requirements, which are required by virtually every public university. This specification minimizes or eliminates the potential financial burden of this law.

We offer the American History Act either as a stand-alone model bill for policymakers, or to be passed in tandem with the Core Curriculum Act.

American History Act

AHA Text: Standard Model

WHEREAS, high school students should acquire the knowledge that will help them to comprehend the workings of the American republic to enable them to contribute to their country as informed, self-reliant, and patriotic citizens; now therefore,

BE IT ENACTED

Section A

  1. Beginning in the 20XX-20XX school year, no institution of higher education that receives state funding may grant to any student any bachelor’s degree unless he or she has passed a survey course in American history and civil government.
  2. This course shall instruct students in, at a minimum,

A. the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals; 

B. the basic principles of the United States’ republican form of government;

C. the historical development of the United States’ republican form of government;

D. an understanding of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of [state name];

E. knowledge of the founding documents and how they have shaped the nature and functions of our institutions of self-governance; and 

F. an understanding of landmark Supreme Court cases and their effects on law and society.

  1. This course shall have a credit value of not less than three semester credit hours or its equivalent.

Section B

  1. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall make available to the public on the institution’s Internet website a syllabus for each course offered by the institution to fulfil the requirements of Section A that:       

A. provides the name of the instructor;

B. provides a brief description of each major course requirement, including each major assignment and examination;            

C. lists any required or recommended reading; and            

D. provides a general description of the subject matter of each lecture or discussion.       

  1. The information required by Subsection (1) must be:

A. accessible from the institution’s Internet website home page by use of not more than three links;         

B. searchable by keywords and phrases; and        

C. accessible to the public without requiring registration or use of a user name, a password, or another use identification.      

  1. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall make the information required by Subsection (1) available not later than the seventh day before the first day of classes for the semester or other academic term during which the course is offered. The institution shall continue to make the information available on the institution’s Internet website until at least the second anniversary of the date on which the institution initially posted the information.      
  2. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall update the information required by Subsection (1) as soon as practicable after the information changes.     
  3. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall conduct end-of-course student evaluations of each course offered by the institution to fulfill the requirements of Section A and develop a plan to make evaluations available on the institution’s website.

Section C

This course will also fulfill any social science general education requirement required as a condition of graduation from any institution of higher education that receives state funding.

Section D

A student of an institution of higher education that receives state funding, who, after having completed the course of instruction prescribed in Section A, transfers to another institution of higher education that receives state funding, is not required to complete another such course as a condition precedent to his or her graduation from the institution.

Section E

  1. “Founding documents” means texts including the Mayflower Compact, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Pennsylvania Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, the Northwest Ordinance, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers (including but not limited to Essays 10 and 51), George Washington’s Farewell Address, excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
  2. “Basic principles of the United States’ republican form of government” means institutions and principles including balance of power, consent of the governed, the Electoral College, federalism, individual liberties, popular sovereignty, representative government, rule of law, and separation of powers.
  3. “Historical development of the United States’ republican form of government” means events including the federalist and antifederalist debates, the rise of Jacksonian democracy, the causes and the constitutional consequences of the Civil War, the Thirteen, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the rise of the New Deal administrative state, and supreme court cases including Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, Dred Scott v. Sandford, Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Education.

Section F

If any provision of this chapter, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this chapter and the application of its provisions to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.

American History Act

AHA Text: Texas Model

WHEREAS, high school students should acquire the knowledge that will help them to comprehend the workings of the American republic to enable them to contribute to their country as informed, self-reliant, and patriotic citizens; now therefore,

BE IT ENACTED:

Section A

  1. Beginning in the 20XX-20XX school year, no institution of higher education that receives state funding may grant to any student any bachelor’s degree unless he or she has passed a survey course in American history, from the foundations of Jamestown and Plymouth to the present.
  2. This course shall instruct students in, at a minimum,

A. the study of and devotion to America’s exceptional and praiseworthy history; 

B. the basic political, diplomatic, and military history of America;

C. the basic history of business and technology in America; and

D. the basic history of the religious and secular aspects of America’s common culture.

  1. This course shall have a credit value of not less than six semester credit hours or its equivalent.
  2. A student is entitled to submit as much as three semester credit hours or its equivalent in a survey course on [state name] History in partial satisfaction of this requirement.

Section B

  1. Beginning in the 20XX-20XX school year, no institution of higher education that receives state funding may grant to any student any bachelor’s degree unless he or she has passed a survey course in American civil government.
  2. This course shall instruct students in, at a minimum,

A. the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals; 

B. the basic principles of the United States’ republican form of government;

C. the historical development of the United States’ republican form of government;

D. an understanding of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of [state name];

E. knowledge of the founding documents and how they have shaped the nature and functions of our institutions of self-governance; and 

F. an understanding of landmark Supreme Court cases and their effects on law and society.

  1. This course shall have a credit value of not less than six semester credit hours or its equivalent.

Section C

  1. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall make available to the public on the institution’s Internet website a syllabus for each course offered by the institution to fulfil the requirements of Section A or Section B that:       

A. provides the name of the instructor;

B. provides a brief description of each major course requirement, including each major assignment and examination;            

C. lists any required or recommended reading; and            

D. provides a general description of the subject matter of each lecture or discussion.     

  1. The information required by Subsection (1) must be:

A. accessible from the institution’s Internet website home page by use of not more than three links;         

B. searchable by keywords and phrases; and        

C. accessible to the public without requiring registration or use of a user name, a password, or another use identification.   

  1. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall make the information required by Subsection (1) available not later than the seventh day before the first day of classes for the semester or other academic term during which the course is offered. The institution shall continue to make the information available on the institution’s Internet website until at least the second anniversary of the date on which the institution initially posted the information.
  2. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall update the information required by Subsection (1) as soon as practicable after the information changes.     
  3. Each institution of higher education that receives state funding shall conduct end-of-course student evaluations of each course offered by the institution to fulfill the requirements of Section A or Section B and develop a plan to make evaluations available on the institution’s website.

Section D

Each course offered to fulfill the requirements of Section A or Section B will also fulfill any social science general education requirement required as a condition of graduation from any institution of higher education that receives state funding.

Section E

A student of an institution of higher education that receives state funding, who, after having completed the course of instruction prescribed in Section A or Section B, transfers to another institution of higher education that receives state funding, is not required to complete another such course as a condition precedent to his or her graduation from the institution.

Section F

  1. “Founding documents” means texts including the Mayflower Compact, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Pennsylvania Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, the Northwest Ordinance, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers (including but not limited to Essays 10 and 51), George Washington’s Farewell Address, excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the writings of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
  2. “Basic principles of the United States’ republican form of government” means institutions and principles including balance of power, consent of the governed, the Electoral College, federalism, individual liberties, popular sovereignty, representative government, rule of law, and separation of powers.
  3. “Historical development of the United States’ republican form of government” means events including the federalist and antifederalist debates, the rise of Jacksonian democracy, the causes and the constitutional consequences of the Civil War, the Thirteen, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the rise of the New Deal administrative state, and supreme court cases including Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, Dred Scott v. Sandford, Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Education.

Section G

If any provision of this chapter, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this chapter and the application of its provisions to any other person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.

EXISTING STATE STATUTES

Require 4 American History and Government Courses

Texas: Texas Education Code § 51.301. Government or Political ScienceTexas Education Code – EDUC § 51.302. American or Texas History

Require 1 American History and Government Course

Arkansas: Arkansas Code § 6-61-105 (2012)

California: 5 CCR § 40404. Requirements in United States History, Constitution and American Ideals.

Florida: Florida Statutes Title XLVIII. K-20 Education Code § 1007.25. General education courses;  common prerequisites;  other degree requirements

Georgia: Georgia Code Title 20. Education § 20-3-68

Missouri: MO Rev Stat § 170.011 (2013)

Nevada: NV Rev Stat § 396.500 (2013)

South Carolina: S.C. Code Ann. §59-29-130 [Duration of instruction in essentials of United States Constitution]

Utah: Utah Code 53B-16-103.  Granting of degrees, diplomas, or certifications

Wyoming: Wyoming Stat § 21-9-102 (1997 through Reg Sess)

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