University regents consider required course on Constitution

Five members of the University of Colorado's Board of Regents are considering a proposal that would require students to complete a course on the U.S. Constitution and "civic literacy."

The course, backed by both Democrats and Republicans, would also include "a portion on civil discourse and how to debate effectively."

A cohort within the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents is attempting to introduce a “civic literacy” requirement to teach students about the Constitution and “civil discourse.”

According to The Daily Camera, five regents gathered during the board’s University Affairs Committee meeting to discuss the possible addition, which, if approved, would become a requirement in the university’s core curriculum.

Notably, of the five backing the initiative, at least two are registered Democrats, including Regent Steve Ludwig, who told The Camera that he’s convinced many graduates do not have the civic literacy that ought be expected of them.

Meanwhile, Regent John Carson, a Republican, stressed the importance of such a requirement at this particular moment, saying “it shouldn't be challenging to disagree with people and not feel like you have to physically assault them.”

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"I think what holds us together as a country is not race, geography, ethnicity," he added. "It's the Constitution. I don't think we're doing our job as adults passing on this amazing legacy to younger people."

Regent Heidi Ganahl, one of the five in favor of the motion, noted that the curriculum as a whole will ultimately need to be reevaluated before their proposal moves forward, but stood by the importance of the initiative.

“For me personally it’s a course in the history of America, including a focus on the founding documents and the key Amendments, the battles waged over our short history and how our institutions work,” she said, stressing that it’s “critical to teach our students how to think, not what to think.”

Similar to Carson, Ganahl noted that “including a portion on civil discourse and how to debate effectively would be helpful as well considering what’s happening in our country today,” citing two studies as reasoning for the course.

First, Ganahl referenced a National Assessment of Educational Programs study showing that while almost all twelfth graders reported having studied civics, testing revealed that a depressing 24 percent had scored at the proficient level or higher.  

Meanwhile, a study conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), that found that “only 18 percent [of universities] require students to take even one course in American history or government before they graduate.”

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“I believe it’s dangerous for us to pretend that our students do not need more education on a subject so critical to the future of our country,” Ganahl observed. “The anger and the lack of civil discourse we are watching now point to our failure to teach our students how to participate in a democratic republic.

“How can you debate free speech if you don’t know much about the Constitution? How can you learn from the past wrongs to prevent them in the future if you have never studied them?” she asked.

The school’s College Republicans chapter is encouraged by the idea, with President Alexander Vela telling Campus Reform that “personally” he “love[s] the proposal.”

“I grew up with a lawyer and was therefore exposed to constitutional law my whole life, but not everyone has this great grace,” he added, saying “there is no better way to know why government or individuals are acting in a way not conducive with constitutional ethics than knowing what that ethic is in the first place.”

Vela concluded by stating that while he thinks most students have a “working” understanding of American politics, he believes there is “a lack of deeper understanding, which is to say an understanding of all the individual rights and Amendments, and what they mean in a real life context.”

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