- Alex Baltzegar
Bill requiring US Constitution class for NC college students passes House
On Wednesday, the North Carolina House passed a bill requiring students at state universities to take a three-credit hour course on the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents by a vote of 69-47.
House Bill 96 (H.B. 96) passed the state House, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting in favor of the bill. The two Democrats in support were Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, and Rep. Joe John, D-Wake.
Lead sponsors of H.B. 96 are Reps. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, and Ray Pickett, R-Watuaga.
Rep. Frances Jackson, D-Cumberland, also sponsored the bill. However, Jackson voted ‘No’ on the floor.
Still, assuming the four missing Republicans would support the bill, H.B. 96 would have enough support to override a Governor Cooper veto if he chooses to do so.
All students attending a college in the UNC System or Community College System would be required to take a three-credit-hour class on American government. The class would require students to read the following documents in their entirety:
Declaration of Independence
Federalist Papers (five essays)
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail
Students would also need to pass a final exam on these “founding documents, their historical context, and authors’ perspectives.”
Currently, UNC-Chapel Hill requires three-credit-hour courses in “Global Understanding” and “Power, Difference, & Inequality,” but not in American government.
UNC-Chapel Hill also teaches courses on “Comparative Queer Politics,” “Gender and Sexuality in Africa,” “Islam and Sexual Diversity,” “Animals in Japanese Religion,” “Global Whiteness,” and many similar courses.
Jameson Broggi, a U.S. Marine and attorney stationed at Air Station Cherry Point, has been a lead advocate on this bill. Broggi advocated for the South Carolina legislature to pass similar legislation. Governor Henry McMaster, R-SC, signed S.C. Senate Bill 38 into law.
On the House floor, several Democrats rose to speak against the bill. Democratic Minority Leader Robert Reives said he supports the concept of teaching civics but opposes the bill because he does not think it should be required in community college.
Broggi refutes this critique, arguing, “all associate degree programs at the community colleges require general education requirements—even strict programs such as an applied associate degree in engineering.”
A floor amendment was added to include the North Carolina Constitution on the list of required documents.
Certain students may be eligible to “place out” of the requirement under the bill, including those who have passed an Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam.
The Board of Governors would have the ability to remove the chancellor of a university, and the State Board of Community Colleges may remove the president of a community college if their school fails to comply with the course requirement.
One current UNC law student, Charles DeLoach, who focuses his studies on constitutional law, said he thinks H.B. 96 is a good idea. In addition to law school, DeLoach has been active in Democratic politics.
UNC-Chapel Hill faculty were recently “flabbergasted” by the decision of the UNC Board of Trustees to establish the ‘School of Civic Life and Leadership’ (SCiLL).
Establishing SCiLL at UNC is an effort to “create a space for free speech, a culture of civic and open inquiry, in which we as a university and faculty members and other students would recognize members of political outgroups as friends to learn from rather than foes to vanquish,” Dave Boliek, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said.
Given H.B. 96’s bipartisan support in the House, its fate lies in the state Senate. The bill only needs to gain Republican backing in the Senate to pass with a veto-proof margin.