Wichita State University ‘cancel Senate’ should have had a civics class

Wichita, Kansas, USA: 6-2021: Main entrance sign to Wichita State University central campus

It seems a lot of Kansas college students and even their professors have somehow determined the U.S. Constitution exists only to desecrate the American Flag, commandeer and occupy portions of college town streets, toss Chic-fil-A out of the student union and cancel speakers and organizations they don’t like. That’s why Kansas Legislators need to pass a bill presently languishing in Topeka that requires the passage of a civics test as a condition of high school graduation.

Our latest and most ready example comes from the delightful cherubs making up the Wichita State University student government, who in October voted to prohibit the campus chapter of Turning Point USA, a nationwide organization of college conservatives (we’re not kidding, such animals do actually exist) from gaining what’s referred to as Registered Student Organization status. That status gives official recognition to the group and allows it free use of school facilities for their events, etc.

The student government meeting where TurningPoint got the boot wasn’t short on discussion – almost all the opposition couched in the kind of political verbosity designed to obscure the real beliefs of the student senators and drown the issue in its own details of university policy and legalese. 

Those attacking the organization sought cover in bureaucracy and clearly feared any details of their reasoning being made public. With their faces covered and voices muffled by masks as per university policy, the vote was eventually 21-14 against TurningPoint, for no other reason other than a majority just didn’t like the organization’s opinions. It’s clear from the video of the meeting those opposing TurningPoint’s recognition were far more concerned about the repercussions of their votes than of guaranteeing rights to those with whom they may disagree.

The Student Supreme Court had a better grasp of the First Amendment and the university’s obligations, and reversed the decision.

This isn’t new ground in the WSU venue. Back in March some members of the student senate called for the resignation of Senator Olivia Gallegos after she nominated a TurningPoint USA national officer for a Student Government Association recognition of admirable women for Women’s History Month. In 2017 the student senate denied acceptance of another conservative student organization, Young Americans for Liberty, a decision which also was overturned by the student’s high court.

Shenanigans at WSU of course aren’t the only examples that many Kansas college students think leaders like Ilan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cory Bush are the standards to be emulated in the formulation of modern American policy. Forget the Constitution – we’ll bully anyone we don’t like out of the picture. 

Most of those kids get that there’s no real Spiderman, but the reality of and respect for the rights of others – and duties of American government in that regard – were apparently never imparted to them in their junior grades.

That’s a failing of an educational system that’s been left on its own too long to determine what American kids need to know and what the country’s educational priorities should be. The outcome? A 2016 survey conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center revealed that only 26 percent of Americans were able to identify the three branches of the U.S. government.

With the recent explosion of interest nationwide in just what goes on at public schools, as evidenced by attendance at school board meetings and the outcome of state office races in Virginia, it’s clear that setting those priorities straight and setting school boards back on track to represent parents’ interests is fast becoming a new national priority.

The premise of individual rights and limits on government power is pretty well covered in the U.S. Citizenship Exam given to anyone who wants to become an American, but they’ve obviously been lost on any number of young Kansans and others of their generation. In fact, of the 17 states now requiring a civics test, 8 require a minimum score to graduate.

A bill offered in the Kansas House by Valley Center Republican Steve Huebert would amount to a finals exam to ensure each kid graduates knowing the basics of the system – not just how to dodge responsibility within it. Legislators should move on it post haste.

Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.