News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


High schools need to focus on teaching the Constitution

Alabama educators credit the Reading Initiative in public schools for getting priorities in the proper order. Children can't learn if they can't read, so the initiative teaches reading, reading and reading.

The program is so successful that it is now spreading across the state as officials at lower-performing school systems see it at work elsewhere and want to be part of this effort to get back to education basics.

But all of this ability to read will be useless if schools don't do a better job of teaching civics.

A recent study found that many high school students think government censorship of newspapers isn't necessarily bad, and they don't understand the concept of freedom of expression.

The James L. Knight Foundation sponsored a study of high school students' attitudes about the First Amendment to the Constitution.

More than one-third of those asked said the guarantees of freedom of religion, speech, press and to assemble go too far. The study found that students are confused about exactly what's in those guarantees for them.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., pushed a mandate through Congress for schools to teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the signing date in 1797. But, like reading, studying the Constitution needs to be an ongoing effort.

Many students don't know the Constitution and don't know why the founding fathers wrote many of the safeguards and liberties into the document. They don't understand why amending the Constitution isn't something that's done over night.

The nation needs a Civics Initiative not to save newspapers from the grip of government censors but to save these students from some day giving up through ignorance those things that make the United States special.

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