The North Carolina state legislature has proposed a bill that would make a mere three hours of “instruction in American history or American government” mandatory for college graduation, and the University of North Carolina (UNC) is up in arms.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jim Perry, “Our public universities should provide each student with an understanding of these foundational documents which shaped the birth of our nation. Average North Carolinians provide billions of dollars to fund our public university system and the system belongs to them. The general assembly chooses to delegate a great deal of decision making to the Board of Governors and chancellors. We also have the ability to make some of the decisions. I believe we should join the eight other states who have this requirement.”

The legislation would mandate “as a condition of graduation… at least three credit hours of instruction in American history or American government that provides a comprehensive overview of the major events and turning points of American history and government.” Students would be required to read the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, at least five essays from the Federalist Papers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Gettysburg Address, and the North Carolina State Constitution.

Unquestionably, this is exactly the kind of education America is in desperate need of. Therefore, it is no surprise that university faculty are vehemently opposed.

According to Fox News, a whopping 673 professors signed a public letter in opposition to the measure. Apparently, making students read their Constitution would be an “attack” on schools’ supposed “expertise.” And studying historic documents foundational to our society would “force students’ educations into pre-approved ideological containers.”

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How tragic an American institute of “higher learning” that holds its own heritage in such contempt! No wonder America is in such serious trouble. No wonder we have forgotten who we are; we have actively fought not to teach our history!

In “If You Can Keep It,” Eric Metaxas, as many other authors have similarly done, argues that America is an idea. He points out that early Americans were united neither by ethnic similarities nor by a single forceful leader. They were united by an idea. “Conceived in liberty,” the United States of America was born from the conviction that all men are created equal.

Preserving America, therefore, requires revisiting and—should it be forgotten—reviving the “substratum of American philosophies” that made us great. If we lose the idea, we lose the nation founded upon it. As George Mason put it, “No free government, or the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people, but by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

For this reason, we can call UNC’s ridiculous letter the anti-Mason manifesto. It seems they took the Forgotten Founder’s iconic quote and did the exact opposite of what he advised.

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Reading the Constitution and Declaration of Independence should be a given. All students should be familiar with the Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, and Letter from Birmingham Jail by the time they graduate high school. This bill asks only for the bare minimum; an introductory primer. But even that is too much for our anti-American universities.

Historically illiterate, we have forgotten who we are and the principles on which we stand. If Mason was right, liberty cannot be expected to survive in such an unnurtured state.

By failing to cultivate love of country within the rising generation, our education system is proactively contributing to America’s undoing. To stick it to UNC, perhaps the best thing we can do is pick up a copy of the Constitution. Read it. Read Paine’s writings and Lincoln’s speeches. Pass them down to our children and grandchildren. Fall in love with the American story. Tell it over and over again.

Only then can we rediscover the long-dead spirit of our Founding.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance. 

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