I've lived in Maryland for nearly a decade now, so I should be used to stupid decisions coming down from Annapolis.
The proposal in Governor O'Malley's budget to eliminate funding for the American government High School Assessment (HSA), however, has to rank among the most cynical, particularly given the renewed interest nationwide in the founding principles and documents of our republic.
O'Malley's spokesman said in an email, "It is one of those difficult cuts that became necessary to address the substantial deficit we are facing."
$1.9 million is like change in the couch cushions compared to a $1.6 billion shortfall, and I promise you I could find $1.9 million in O'Malley's budget of lesser significance than ensuring our children are minimally proficient in understanding how our nation's government works.
Moreover, Maryland just instituted the exam three years ago, so the decision to shift away from it so quickly is a textbook example of why parents and local school districts don't trust having their children's education planned by bureaucrats in Annapolis and Washington.
Jeff Passe, professor and chair of the Department of Secondary Education at Towson University, highlighted the folly of eliminating the test as a requirement at a time when citizens need to be more informed than ever about their government:
Constitutional issues are being discussed at every level. This is the time more than ever to have kids learning about government and how it works. If it is a budgetary issue, there are other ways to save money.We already know that civics - "the study of rights and duties of citizenship" - is in crisis in America. People can't name their legislators, Supreme Court justices, or their freedoms as codified in the Bill of Rights, among other basic facts about our republic.
The price we pay for our ignorance is the loss of liberty as government takes advantage of what we don't know to amass more power and influence in our lives.
One of the great gifts of the Tea Party movement is a revival in respect for our founders, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution. Tea Party organizations are sponsoring home groups where people read and discuss the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Bill of Rights, and the Anti-Federalists.
How many of you knew there were Anti-Federalists who participated in the debate over the Constitution and demanded a Bill of Rights to protect us from an oppressive federal government that would intrude in the lives of individuals, and wield the power of taxation "to sluice [the people] at every vein as long as they have a drop of blood, without control, limitation or restraint"? Sound even remotely familiar?
Thomas Jefferson, the nation's first advocate for public education in the United States, was quite clear that his rationale for educating "the whole mass of the people" was because they represent "the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty":
I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.Jefferson was clear that education is essential to self-government. In 1816, he wrote, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
It's not enough just to be able to read, write and calculate. China has some brilliant writers, mathematicians and scientists, but they're ignorant about how their government works, and that is by design.
That's not how we roll here in America, or in Maryland. O'Malley's not in charge - we are. We're the owners of this republic, and we should be well versed in the owner's manual.
I encourage you to petition your state senator or delegate to restore the funding for the American government HSA requirement.
Jefferson said "Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone." Don't trust them.
Ron Miller is a conservative writer and commentator, author of the book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Toms Porch, and the president of Regular Folks United, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty, free markets and our nation's founding principles. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for several online sites and print publications, and his own website, TeamRonMiller.com. Join him on Facebook and Twitter.