Lest you despair of US kids ever learning of their national heritage, a new bill has been proposed in South Carolina that would bring it strongly back into focus - by having students recite part of the Declaration of Independence each day.
The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should be on the lips of every public school student, argues state Sen. Joe Wilson, to instill American patriotism well into the next millennium.
"We need to be reminded of the precepts of the Declaration of Independence," said Senator Wilson. "We are created equal, ... we need to treat each other in an honorable fashion."
The bill would require students to recite: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Republican presidential contender Gary Bauer has also argued that if schoolchildren can't begin their day with prayer, they should recite the Declaration of Independence. It would remind them "that God is the author of our liberties and that nobody can take that liberty away," he told a high school audience in Tennessee last month.
Some South Carolina educators question whether students would respect the words or just say them to meet the requirement.
"I'd like to see our children growing up understanding the Declaration of Independence... rather than just having to recite it every morning," state Board of Education member Robert Scarborough said.
The Declaration of Independence "is one of my favorite lessons," said Caroline Blades, an eighth-grade teacher in Rock Hill and one of the state's 34 National Board-certified teachers. "I don't want to see other teachers see it as one more thing to do in the morning."
Wilson said it's not too much to ask because it will teach children about the foundation of democracy in America and maintain the honorable standards of the nation. "I hope this is not controversial. It's meant to be uplifting, period."
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