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‘American values’ education bill still idling, opposed by UNC faculty

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(The Center Square) – As the nation celebrates the 247th anniversary of the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence, some in the General Assembly want North Carolina college graduates to better understand its significance.

The NC REACH Act – an acronym for Reclaiming College Education on America’s Constitutional Heritage – has languished in the Senate rules committee since it was approved by the House with a vote 69-47 in March.

The legislation, House Bill 96, stems from concerns about civic ignorance among college students that has been documented by groups including the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Research from the latter found 16% of college students believe Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Constitution, while over half don’t know the term limits for members of Congress.

The NC REACH Act aims to counter that reality by requiring “at least three credit hours of instruction in American history or American government in order to graduate from a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a baccalaureate degree or a community college with an associate degree.”

The bill includes required instruction on the U.S. and state constitutions, Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, Federalist Papers, Gettysburg Address and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

“This July 4 is a good reminder for REACH Act for college students to study the Declaration of Independence and our founding American values,” the bill’s author, Jameson Broggi, a U.S. Marine and attorney in Morehead City, posted to Twitter.

HB96, backed by numerous Republicans and two Democrats in the House, has faced opposition from faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, which have described the legislation as government “overreach” that “substitutes ideological force-feeding for the intellectual expertise of faculty.”

Nearly 700 faculty members at Carolina say in an open letter that the bill and others “violate the principles of academic freedom and shared governance.” UNC officials have also lobbied against the bill behind the scenes.

The university, meanwhile, does not require students to take a course in American government, though a three-credit courses in “Global Understanding and Engagement” and “Power, Difference, and Inequality” are required.

The bill’s sponsors insist HB96 is intended to enable young people to engage more constructively in civil debates and counter a trend of cancel culture on campus. They’ve also repeatedly pushed back on allegations HB96 is politically motivated.

Broggi, meanwhile, has penned op-eds and spoken out about why he believes it’s important for North Carolinians to appreciate the reasons 56 Americans “pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” for the principle that “all men are created equal” in July 1776.

He wants the state’s graduates to comprehend the sacrifices of thousands of military service members stationed across the state who have pledged their lives to defend the freedoms many take for granted.

“Ignorance is what is happening, which is what the opponents of the REACH Act are seeking to promote,” Broggi posted to Twitter. “This cannot be allowed to continue … at the cost of the taxpayers.”

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