Who would have thought that a simple screenshot of a paragraph from the Revised Washington Code could be a popular social media meme? RCW 28A.405.030 is little changed from the original text included in the unrevised Washington Code of 1881, but unlike the amusing and anachronistic laws unearthed by the Law Review Commission, this one is not obsolete. Current title and full text:
“RCW 28A.405.030 Shall Teach Morality and Patriotism – It is the duty of all teachers to endeavor to impress upon the minds of their pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, temperance, humanity and patriotism; to teach them to avoid idleness, blasphemy, and lying; to instruct them in the principles of free government and form them in the true understanding of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship.
Failure to teach these precepts is an offense for any educator or school board principal, unless and until the Legislative Assembly wishes to revise or repeal a law that has stood for over 140 years. It has survived numerous updates, RCW revamps and renumbering, most recently in 2003. It’s a classic and it’s been rediscovered.
One of those who shared the meme was Russell Neff, a concerned parent, former engineer and current substitute teacher. He sees individual teachers doing good work but fractures in the structure of our education system, in part because of a loss of focus on the values of morality and patriotism that should be taught as part of RCW.
Neff frequently works at Lewis and Clark High School, where the hallways are filled with history, but he feels “the values on the wall at LC are in jeopardy, now they’re also seen as flexible.” He shared a photo of a plaque on the wall of the historic school, placed and dedicated by the class of January 1926.
THE AMERICAN CREDO
I BELIEVE that the United States of America is a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers derive from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign nation made up of many sovereign states; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established on the principles of liberty, equality, justice and humanity for which American patriots have sacrificed their lives and their fortunes.
I THUS BELIEVE that it is my duty to my country to love it; support its constitution; obey its laws; respect its flag; and defend it against all enemies.
CLASS JAN 1926
It is a statement recognizing the universal values essential to holding together the American experience of democracy, even knowing that they have always been imperfectly lived. It is from a time when duties were emphasized as the logical companion of rights. And it’s a reminder that our nation is made up of 50 states, each empowering its residents with political power through frequent free and fair elections.
The apostrophe in the American creed places the responsibility for “I believe” statements squarely on the individual. This puts it at odds with many of the more recent additions to the program, lumped together under the term CRT by protesting parents. Critical race theory is more accurately used to refer to an academic legal framework, but CRT is now shorthand for the applied postmodernism that underpins the modern curriculum, a philosophy focused on group identities and rights without regard to the “duty and dignity of American citizenship”.
According to “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity” by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, “The intense focus on identity categories and identity politics means that the individual and the ‘universal are greatly devalued.’
And so the collision between universal values and the requirements of RCW 28A.405.030 to “imprint on the minds of their students the principles of morality, truth, justice, temperance, humanity and patriotism” with programs of fluid truth teaching. Modern pedagogy has been imbued with a postmodern knowledge principle that denies the existence of objective truth. Feelings are more important than facts. We no longer aspire to “a perfect union, one and inseparable”, but simply to a set of intersecting identity groups centered on collective grievances.
Civilized society demands that we agree on a core of universal values. We can start with a simple test by school boards for organizations seeking to partner with schools – how will you advance the principles of morality and patriotism as set forth in state law? How will you, as a community partner, add value to the building blocks? Not just the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, but the principles of free government and the responsibilities of citizenship.
The parents woke up. They will hold school boards accountable.
PS To all teachers and administrators who do a hard job well, love children every day and try to be responsible adults who can read, write, do math and think critically, may you be blessed with patience while the political debates continue .
Contact Sue Lani Madsen at rulin[email protected]