‘Constitution Day’ Requirement: The First Step to a National Curriculum?
May 25, 2005
by Minnie Quach
The rule puts into effect a provision that was inserted in the final federal-spending bill for 2005 by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and the Senate’s unofficial constitutional scholar (The Chronicle, December 3, 2004). The requirement applies to colleges, as well as elementary and secondary schools, that receive aid from any federal agency. The guidelines note, however, that the Education Department does not have regulatory authority over institutions that get money only from other agencies.
But many university presidents remain concerned that Senator Byrd’s provision could establish a precedent for Congress’s setting curricular requirements, said Becky Timmons, director of government relations at the American Council on Education. Federal law prohibits the Education Department from establishing a national curriculum.“Our members find it very intrusive,” Ms. Timmons said. “They are concerned about the precedent it holds for Congress telling them what to teach.”
In a written statement, Senator Byrd, a self-taught historian who has been known to distribute pocket-size copies of the Constitution to his Senate colleagues, said on Tuesday that he was pleased that the guidelines did not “impose a particular view or interpretation of the Constitution.”“I hope that schools will develop many different, creative ways to enable students to learn about one of our country’s most important historic documents,” the eight-term senator said.