Volunteers unfurl a giant banner printed with the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
Florida’s K-12 students will soon learn what traits make them an “upright and desirable citizen” in the United States of America.
So, what are these qualities?
According to a new Department of Education rule, an upright and desirable citizen respects the military and elected officials, and “all those who have defended the blessings of liberty in pursuit of the common good, even at personal risk.”
The upright and desirable citizen, according to this rule, also recognizes that communism and totalitarianism “conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to preserving the United States constitutional republic.”
The upright and desirable citizen also defends the core values of founding documents such as United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other amendments.
But the new rule raises questions as to whether students should be taught to hold certain values and beliefs about the United States and its founding documents, and may imply that a person who identifies with certain political ideologies, such as a communism, cannot be considered an “upright and desirable citizen.”
The new rule passed last week by the State Board of Education integrates the language of a new law spurred from a bill approved during the 2021 legislative session. The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Ardian Zika, a Republican who represents part of Pasco County.
The law instructed the Board of Education to develop the “civic-minded expectations…of an upright and desirable citizenry that recognizes and accepts responsibility for preserving and defending the blessings of liberty inherited from prior generations and secured by the United States Constitution.”
It also made sure that Florida students received “a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.”
Bob Holladay, an adjunct history professor at Tallahassee Community College in the state’s capital, says that while he wants students to understand the benefits of the United States government, such as the right to free speech and a representative democracy, he is wary of it.
“We make room, in this country, for all sorts of ideologies,” he told the Phoenix. “We’ve got to have room to disagree.”
“If you define what an ‘upright citizen’ is… by definition, you can label people as undesirable citizens,” he said. “We’ve been through several periods of this country’s history, where people, because of their political beliefs, were essentially listed as undesirable citizens. The Red Scares at the end of both world wars… where if you were considered a radical, in one case you were deported and in the other case you were blacklisted.”
Here’s the outline of what the Department of Education considers to be an “upright and desirable citizen”:
/Has a thorough knowledge of America’s founding principles and documents, and is equipped to apply this knowledge;
/Demonstrates civic virtue and self-government that promotes the success of the United States constitutional republic through personal responsibility, civility, and respect in political, social, and religious discourse and lawful civic engagement;
/Respects the military, elected officials, civic leaders, public servants, and all those who have defended the blessings of liberty in pursuit of the common good, even at personal risk.;
/Understands the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and other amendments in their historical context; defends the core values of these documents and the principles that shaped them;
/Recognizes how political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to preserving the United States constitutional republic;
/Appreciates the price paid by previous generations to secure the blessings of liberty and why it is the responsibility of current and future generations to preserve it.
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