RI Civics Lawsuit Spotlighted On Bill Maher

Classical senior Ahmed Sesay was asked to stand Friday night on Real Time with Bill Maher. Sesay is one of fourteen students filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of Rhode Island students claiming “the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all students should have access to an education that prepares them to participate in their civic duties — whether that involves the right to free speech, the right to vote, or sitting on a jury.” To which I say amen.

I confess that this is the first I am hearing of this months-old story. Whether I was still swooning from the mid-terms, or busy with the holidays, I am not sure. But I thank Mr. Maher for bringing young Mr. Sesay out to California and putting the lawsuit back into the spotlight. (I wonder if Ahmed will be speaking at this year’s commencement. He’s got a story to tell I think.)

Obviously the Republicans have had success exploiting voter ignorance, but the results of this approach are starting to sink in and civic-minded Americans of both stripes are calling for a return to curricula that include lessons on the Constitution and how our democracy is supposed to work. From The New York Times (11.28.18):

Aleita Cook, 17, has never taken a class in government, civics or economics. In the two social studies classes she took in her four years at a technical high school in Providence, R.I. — one in American history, the other in world history — she learned mostly about wars, she said.

. . . Now she and other Rhode Island public school students and parents are filing a federal lawsuit against the state on Thursday, arguing that failing to prepare children for citizenship violates their rights under the United States Constitution.

What good is it learning about wars, without knowing who has the authority to declare and fund them. Linda Borg spoke to Ahmed at the time the suit was filed, (ProJo, 11.29.18):

“This case is super important to me,” he said, “Our school system is inherently failing so many students by not giving them the information they need to contribute productively to making changes in this country. As a senior, it would have been the icing on the cake to have learned about where education funding comes from. When you don’t teach civics, students simply feel left behind or apathetic.”

Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University, is the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. “What we’re really seeking is for the courts, especially the Supreme Court, to take a strong stance on getting back to first principles on what the school system was established for in the United States.”

To Watch: Ahmed gets his shout-out as Maher is winding up the monologue, roughly the 8 minute mark. Watch Episode 2 of Season 17 here at HBOGo.

1 thought on “RI Civics Lawsuit Spotlighted On Bill Maher”

  1. Cyrus Faridi

    Hello:
    Last quarter I wrote a paper in graduate school on political illiteracy in U.S. and suggested that civics and politics to be taught in middle and high schools. There are factions who would fight this effort but it is worth fighting for, the Republicans and the other right wingers who rather people remain ignorant so that they can taken advantage of. I hope the law suit succeeds as it will bring attention to the matter.

    Best,

    Cyrus Faridi

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