USC ignores state law, refuses US civics graduation requirement
The University of South Carolina for years has ignored a state law requiring state-funded colleges and universities to make a course on documents fundamental to the founding of the United States a graduation requirement.
The law (SC ST SEC 59-29-120) was originally passed in 1924. However, in 2014, USC President Harris Pastides sent a letter to South Carolina Republican state Sen. Lawrence Grooms, the primary sponsor of the bill, calling the statute requirements, which include studying the Constitution, “archaic” and in need of updating.
The bill makes several requirements of public colleges, including the instruction of essential founding documents and an end-of-course proficiency exam. The founding documents that are required to be taught include the Federalist Papers, the U.S. Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence.
In February, the state Senate voted to pass the REACH Act, also known as the "Reinforcing College Education on America's Constitutional Heritage Act," which would update the law and enforce some of the recommendations given by USC. However, the SC House delayed its vote on the legislation until January 2020.
“I believe that these documents are so important and so essential to the survival of democracy and those before me believed that so much that they enshrined this in South Carolina law and South Carolina code,” Sen. Grooms said while arguing in favor of the bill on the senate floor. “I’m here today in an attempt to make sure that future students also understand and have that type of instruction to understand why we have what we have and where it came from.”
Even with the USC president’s recommendations being taken into account, the university is still contesting the requirements of the bill claiming that the school’s current tradition of passing out Constitutions on Constitution Day each year should be satisfactory.
In response, Republican representative and Chairman of the subcommittee Bill Taylor rhetorically asked: “What other courses does USC offer that are done piecemeal?"
USC Director of State Government Relations Derrick Meggie even went in front of the house subcommittee to contest the bill, arguing against the bill’s exam requirement, as reported by the Palmetto Post and Courier.
Meggie, while on the house floor, admitted that USC has yet to comply with the 95-year-old statute, citing the fiscal impact of the course.
While the mandated three-credit course on founding United States documents has not been enforced by USC, apparently due to the financial burden, the university does have a six credit “Global Citizenship and Multicultural Understanding” requirement in which students must learn to “explore diverse cultural identities and to analyze political and environmental issues.”
As part of the Global Citizenship requirement, students can take courses like “An Introduction to Social Inequality” and “Sociology of Sex Roles.”
While American history courses can be used to fulfill a portion of the global citizen requirement, taking American history courses specifically is not an enforced graduation requirement at USC.
If passed, the REACH Act will adjust a few of the requirements in the original law, such as changing the full-year course requirement to a single semester and removing a “loyalty” oath, which required students to pledge loyalty to the country.
The REACH Act is being supported by other administrators in South Carolina colleges, with Coastal Carolina University President David DeCenzo both supporting and enforcing the mandate.
“Our faculty — realizing that citizens need to know about their national government and also realizing that the more a citizen knows about his or her government, the more likely they will be able to participate and vote — has wholeheartedly supported the inclusion of this course in our core curriculum,” DeCenzo wrote in a February letter to Rep. Taylor regarding the REACH Act.
A more detailed background regarding the REACH Act, the recent state house and senate votes, and the original law can be found on the Palmetto Family website. Palmetto Family is a policy organization based in South Carolina.
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, told Campus Reform, "civics is an indispensable part of education, including higher education. Even the progressive left acknowledges this. In 2011 President Obama's National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement released its report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy's Future, which called for a renewed emphasis on civics education in all American colleges and universities."
"When the University of South Carolina requires two semesters of 'Global Citizenship,' it is committing a kind of intellectual fraud," Wood added. "There is no such thing as 'global citizenship' and thrusting it on students as a requirement is just an exercise in propaganda by those who would prefer that the United States be radically weakened and that the ideas on which the nation is founded be diminished."
"One way to diminish them is to keep students from knowing what they are," the NAS president told Campus Reform. "That's why the University of South Carolina refuses to obey the law and is now trying to prevent the passage of even a simplified and streamlined version of the academic requirement."
Campus Reform contacted other public, four-year colleges in South Carolina to ask whether they enforce the mandated requirement. None responded in time for publication.
After initial publication of this article, Winthrop University confirmed its compliance with the REACH Act through a three-credit "Constitution Competency" course requirement. South Carolina State University has communicated a two-course graduation requirement with Campus Reform comprised of American Government and History 101.
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