Group pushing for American History requirement for college graduation

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A national group is asking Arizona's public universities to require at least one United States history course of every student before graduation.

American History currently isn't a required course at any of the state's major public universities.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has written letters to Gov. Janet Napolitano and 20 state lawmakers, asking them to pressure college regents and administrators to make the change.

"The flag doesn't mean all that much if you don't know how it got there," trustees member Charles Mitchell said. "What use is the Constitution if you don't know how it was written?"

State Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said he is exploring legislation that would require colleges that received Arizona tax dollars to mandate their students take American history before receiving a diploma.

"I think we have a fundamental responsibility," said Pearce, who sponsored the flag bill from this session. "The risk is losing our understanding and appreciation of the founding principles."

Faculty members note funding and other logistical problems that would come with an additional curricular mandate. Some are wary of what brand of history the American council has in mind.

Some students say they are simply tired of studying our nation's history by the time they reach college.

"You basically take U.S. history for your whole elementary and high school career," said Kristina Guerra, 20, a junior majoring in English at Arizona State University. "It's just really redundant. How many times can you learn about the pilgrims?"

The debate comes as Arizona school districts and colleges prepare for a new state law that requires the presentation of the U.S. flag in every public classroom, as well as display of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in classrooms for Grades 7 through 12 and college.

The measure, approved this session by the Legislature and signed by the governor, takes effect July 1

Mitchell said that, although the law is well meaning, it will do little on its own to ensure students have a grasp of the events and foundational documents that shape our nation.

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