Trump Earns a Failing Grade in Civics (K-12) in North Carolina.

BY Mike Magee MD

Events over the past year clearly have confirmed that we are a “work in progress” even as we stubbornly affirm our good intentions to create a society committed to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

With the Dobbs’ decision, our Supreme Court has unleashed long-abandoned regressive state laws designed to reinforce selective patriarchy and undermine the stability and confidence of America’s women and families. As a result, our nation’s health professionals, and the patients they care for, potentially find themselves “on the wrong side of the law.”

It calls to mind the well-worn phrase of mothers everywhere to their bossy children, “Who died and left you boss?”

Since our former President, on the eve of his latest indictment, decided to deliver a message to North Carolina Republican supporters this past weekend, claiming that he was engaged in the “final battle” with “corrupt” forces, most especially the “Deep State” that was “out to get him,” I decided to fact check his claims with the kids of North Carolina.

North Carolina’s K-12 lesson plan, titled “The Rule of Law,” begins with the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “No man is above the law, and no man is below it” from his 1903 State of the Union address.

In the very first paragraph, the plan affirms that law is fundamental to societal health stating:

“Every day, we are touched by rules and laws. They pervade every aspect of our lives, from traveling on the road to shopping at the mall. In this lesson, students will explore the rule of law in American democracy and its impact on every individual. Through class discussion and role play, students will gain an understanding of:

  1. what the rule of law means in terms of American government, 
  2. the functions laws play in our society, and 
  3. the role all citizens and community members, from a student to the President, play in adhering to and upholding the rule of law.” 

The plan cues up questions that students will need to address, including:

  • “From when and where does our system of law originate?” 
  • “What functions do laws serve in our society?” 
  • “What role does our government’s separation of powers play in ensuring adherence to the rule of law?” 
  • “Why is an independent judiciary fundamental to the rule of law?” 
  • “How might our society be different if we had no laws?” 

A bit further on, students are informed that:

“The rule of law is basically an agreement that everyone will play by the rules. This allows us to enjoy a more peaceful and safe existence. The rule of law also ensures the protection of certain rights for each of us. Ideally, the rule of law applies equally to everyone, meaning you are treated fairly and equally, under the same set of rules, regardless of who you are.”

The curricular plan then explores laws themselves helping students to uncover these insights:

“How do laws affect each of us? What functions do laws serve in our society? Ensure students discuss the following functions of laws:

1.“Laws serve as standards of conduct and dictate the ways people should behave and what activities are permitted or prohibited under certain conditions (e.g., drinking under age, driving, speeding, etc.)
2. Laws maintain order, ensure predictability, and provide security (e.g., they require that people drive on a certain side of the road; they require that people pay for services rendered.)
3. Many laws in America grant and protect particular individual rights and freedoms, ensure equality, and advocate for the common good.
4. Laws also guarantee certain benefits to citizens (e.g., schools, health services, etc.)
5. Laws assign responsibilities to citizens (e.g., paying taxes.)
6. Laws define what duties the government will perform and can also limit the power of governmental officials.
7. Laws can facilitate different forms of change (e.g., toxic waste disposal, anti-discrimination, prohibition of spousal abuse, etc.)
8. Laws are used to manage different forms of conflict, relying on courts, lawyers, and judges for such.
9. In summary, laws serve many different purposes. Ideally, laws should be well designed to ensure justice; they should be designed so that the average citizen can interpret, understand, and thus follow them.”

Finally there is a homework assignment. Students are provided with a copy of chapter 28 in Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s “The Majesty of the Law,” to read.

In follow-up, the teacher is instructed to ask students: “When Justice O’Connor states, ‘A nations success or failure in achieving democracy is judged in part by how well it responds to those at the bottom and the margins of the social order,’ what message was she conveying and how does it relate to the rule of law?”

Mike Magee is a Medical Historian and author of CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical-Industrial Complex.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *