A spokesperson for the Bryant School District in Bryant, Ark., has confirmed the authenticity of an assignment asking sixth-grade students to “revise, omit two and add two amendments” to the “outdated” Bill of Rights.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debbie Bruick-Jones told TheBlaze that the school district stands by the “very strong assignment” and claimed the details of the assessment have been misrepresented. The Bryant School District is not considering retracting or altering the assignment at this time.
“The whole point is that students can read the text that is worth reading. They can make sense of that, they can understand it, and they can understand the claim and make an argument for the counterclaim,” she said of the Bill of Rights assignment, adding that critical thinking skills are part of the Common Core state standards (as adopted by the Arkansas State Board of Education).
When TheBlaze pressed her on why the teacher would have students remove two amendments from the Bill of Rights given each one’s importance, Bruick-Jones said there was a purpose.
“We would never undermine the Bill of Rights. The goal was to have students appreciate each one,” she added. “I think that assignment in itself makes you really think which one you could do without. … If you can make your case for each and every one, and you determine you can’t do without any of them, you can still get an A on the assignment.”
Bruick-Jones said the Bryant School District is part of a “very conservative community” with a “very aggressive curriculum.” The Bill of Rights assignment, while in line with Common Core standards, is not a Common Core assessment, she said.
“In no way would we support any type of liberal agenda. This is not a political assignment, Common Core is not a political set of standards,” Bruick-Jones told TheBlaze. “And for the teacher’s sake and for the school’s sake, the community truly needs to understand that we are not trying got brainwash kids, we are trying to get students to think for themselves.”
The assistant superintendent also refuted claims made by Lela Spears, the Arkansas mother who first publicized the assignment, that the history teacher did not first teach the Constitution or the Bill of Rights before handing out the assignment that has sparked controversy.
Bruick-Jones said the teacher passed out a copy of the Bill of Rights and students discussed the first ten amendments before summarizing them. After the lesson, the teacher then passed out and explained the group assignment.
As TheBlaze reported on Monday, the worksheet in question requires students to take part in a theoretical special committee, the “National Revised Bill of Rights Task Force.” The committee must revise the Bill of Rights, which had been determined to be “outdated,” to “ensure that our personal civil liberties and the pursuit of happiness remains guarded in the 21st century.”
“Your task as a member of the NRBR Task Force is to prioritize, revise, prune two and add two amendments to the Bill of Rights,” the assignment reads.
The Arkansas State Board of Education approved the controversial Common Core standards for all Arkansas schools in 2010. The Bryant School District website embraces Common Core, claiming that “the standards will better prepare students for college and the workforce, making them nationally and internationally competitive graduates.”
In a Blaze poll posted Monday night, 82 percent of the 4,720 people who had voted as of Tuesday afternoon said the assignment crossed the line while 12 percent said the assignment was “thought provoking.” Only 7 percent said they were unsure about the assignment.
You can still take the poll here.