University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides has recently come under fire for criticizing a state law which requires students to learn about the U.S. founding documents, including the Constitution.
The law goes on to say that students can’t obtain a diploma without passing a “satisfactory examination” on the “provision and principles” of the documents.
Vice Provost Helen Doerpinghaus said that although the university doesn’t follow the law verbatim, it does pass out miniature copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day.
Pastides called the law “archaic” and pointed out that 60 percent of students take some sort of political science or history class, which covers the documents to an extent. While we do not agree with the law, we do see the importance of the documents, as they are an integral part of our society and our country. This is one reason that we have been learning about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers since we were in the first grade.
It is a requirement to take and pass a social studies class based on government for any high schooler to graduate. This is one reason we see this law as unnecessary because if a student didn’t pass this class, they wouldn’t be in college at all.
This law has been on the books for years, but the legislature only began to press the university about it in 2013. The timing just isn’t the best: with tuition going up this year, it’s almost insulting to require students to pay for a class that we took for free when we were in high school.
If the state is going to require that something be done, it’s only fair that they give us the funding for it.
Telling USC that we have to add on another class, with all the including expenses, without giving us any money to do so is like telling someone who never learned how to swim that they have to cross Lake Murray or face retribution. It’s borderline ridiculous to make something required by law and not provide the funds to do so, thereby forcing us to drain our own resources.
While knowledge of our country’s founding documents is undoubtedly a good thing to have, there’s the simple fact that most students don’t need it. Students who are pursuing a field outside political science or journalism won’t necessarily need to know about these documents to the extent that the class would be aiming to teach them.
This class could hurt a student’s GPA when it isn’t even that central to their degree.
As Pastides pointed out, there’s a large section of the student body that has already taken classes which cover the documents, which doesn’t even account for students that took a class like Media Law or Intro to Journalism, classes where the documents were covered but weren’t the main focus.
If the state so desperately needs us to be educated on the founding documents, they should make the class an elective so that people who don’t need it or have already taken a similar class don’t need to be saddled with it.
The truth is, if a Schoolhouse Rock song can cover a subject, it isn’t necessary in a college curriculum.