The National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance enthusiastically endorse Iowa House Bill 2330 (2024), which reforms Iowa’s public K-12 social studies instruction and public university instruction. House Bill 2330, co-sponsored by 27 Representatives including Speaker Pat Grassley, thoroughly reforms the basic approach to social studies instruction in civics, United States history, and Western Civilization. The bill:
- bases social studies instruction on primary documents,
- creates a required civic literacy exam both for high school and for college,
- bars “action civics” both in K-12 and in university instruction,
- centers instruction around the history of America’s ideals and institutions of liberty and republican self-government, and
- requires dedicated instruction in Western Civilization rather than in World History.
House Bill 2330 generally reorients social studies instructions around appreciation of our country and our civilization. A portion of its required high school civics instruction gives an example of how well this is done:
The one unit of civics shall include instruction related to all of the following:
The intellectual sources of the United States’ founding documents, including documents that illustrate the Greek, Hebrew, and Roman exemplars of liberty and republican government; the Christian synthesis of Greek, Hebrew, and Roman thought that emphasized the equal dignity of all individual humans in the eyes of God; the medieval English inheritance of common law, jury, local self-government, liberty, and representative government; the early modern English inheritance of Christian liberty, republicanism, the militia, accountable government, mixed government, parliamentary sovereignty, freedom of the press, and the English bill of rights and toleration Act; the colonial American inheritance of Christian liberty, self-government, and local government; and the enlightenment theories of John Locke, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, and their contemporaries that universalized the European traditions of liberty.
House Bill 2330 offers necessary reform. A far-left establishment has seized control of our universities, our education schools, and our K-12 schools. They erase the history and ideals of our country and our civilization from their lessons and substitute either a hostile caricature that encourages disaffection from our country, or a mere blank that will leave students ignorant of their inheritance of liberty and republican self-government and thus willing to relinquish them with no idea of their value. With “action civics,” they use taxpayer dollars and classroom time to teach vocational training in progressive activism instead of civics. House Bill 2330 establishes detailed guidelines for Iowa’s Department of Education and school districts, whose principles will preclude the radical activists’ distortion of history and civics.
We are honored that House Bill 2330 has been informed by some of our own model bills, including the Partisanship Out of Civics Act, the Classroom Learning Act, the Civics Course Act, and the United States History Act. We drafted these model bills with the hope that they would inspire state legislators. We are delighted that they have done so, and that Iowa’s state legislators have modified our suggestions thoughtfully and effectively to suit Iowa’s schools.
We do have some follow-up suggestions for Iowa legislators, which we hope they will consider.
- Should this bill pass into law, this reform will require follow-up by the Department of Education, to ensure that it alters teacher licensure, professional development, textbook creation, and model lesson plans to match the legislative reform. Legislators should urge Governor Kim Reynolds and Director McKenzie Snow to oversee implementation of the bill, and to ensure that it is translated into administrative code.
- The far-left activists in Iowa’s education system inevitably will attempt to make this bill a dead letter. Legislators should consider measures such as academic transparency and financial transparency, to ensure that the bill is enforced. They also should consider credible sanctions for noncompliance with the law, up to and including termination of employment.
- Iowa currently teaches World History rather than Western Civilization. Legislators should be prepared for arguments that it will be expensive and difficult to switch from one framework to the other. These arguments are specious—Iowa switched from Western Civilization to World History easily enough, and it can switch back with equal ease. But legislators should be prepared to address that argument.
- The bill bars action civics at the university level as well as at the K-12 level. Legislators should expect protests that this abrogates academic freedom. It does not: it simply states that such courses will not receive academic credit. Legislators should make that point clearly. They might also consider defining their prohibition of action civics and service-learning in greater detail; we would suggest using the federal legislative language that authorizes federal financial support for service learning, and saying that nothing authorized by that language will receive academic credit. That specificity should address any concerns that this bill might unconstitutionally constrain academic freedom.
These suggestions are meant to help Iowa legislators make this bill achieve its intended goals more effectively. House Bill 2330 is excellent. We urge the Iowa legislature to pass the bill and Governor Reynolds sign it. House Bill 2330 will give Iowa’s children the civic and historical education, grounded in our ideals and institutions of liberty and republican self-government, which they need and deserve.