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‘Save my constitution’: Civic literacy education key to preserving America, expert argues

Conservative Jim Kallinger takes the U.S. Constitution very seriously. When he served in the Florida House of Representatives he was distinguished as its constitutional expert.

In 2018, he helped lead the “Save My Constitution” coalition, a group of former Florida lawmakers working to abolish efforts to add progressive amendments to his state’s constitution.

Today he leads the National Association of Former State Legislators, a nonprofit focused on providing civics education to current legislators nationwide.

In a recent interview with The College Fix, Kallinger argued that teaching people — both students and lawmakers — about the importance of federalism and other key principles is crucial to preserving America’s freedoms.

He said he believes civic literacy education, grounded on the philosophies, ideals and values that the country’s founding fathers adhered to, is fundamental to maintaining what they started.

“Socialism and communism have failed while capitalism, free markets, and individualism have flourished and produced the best societies humanity has ever seen. Yet, if you don’t teach the average citizen, the voting person, on what the founders gave us, we’re going to lose what we have to socialism or communism and we’ll never get it back,” he told The Fix.

He said it’s a matter of “fighting for it.” But, he added, “to fight for it you got to know it. We want individuals to take the time to learn and study and really understand what it is.”

In Florida, civics education is blossoming.

In March, the state began rewarding K-12 teachers with a $3,000 stipend for completing civics training as part of a Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative established by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021. DeSantis said “4,500 teachers have completed the course, which entails 50 hours of instruction on U.S. history and civics,” Florida Politics reported March 23.

DeSantis also recently signed into law legislation that significantly expands constitutional civic centers across its major universities. There, students will receive instruction on American exceptionalism, American foundational documents, western-democratic thought, and its impact on comparative political systems.

Kallinger said what’s taking place in Florida should be mirrored nationwide.

“I think civics education should be requisite,” he said. “Civic literacy is so important that there should be entire colleges dedicated to civics. It’s that important.”

The National Association of Former State Legislators works to ensure “currently elected state legislators intentionally preserve the sovereignty of their states in response to the natural inclination of the national government to further consolidate and centralize its power and authority,” according to its website.

Its key lessons include promoting “constitutional federalism and the significance of state sovereignty as defined by the 10th Amendment,” it states. The group also aims to give lawmakers the tools to base their “assertions and arguments on the founding documents of our republic.”

Kallinger said arguments supporting tighter voting requirements echo the founders’ intent.

“The founders figured that voting citizens ought to have a stake in the outcome of the elections. Back then you had to be a landowner and there’s a reason for that,” he said.

He said it was a concept based on philosophy from the University of Edinburgh that “if you have people that are dependent on the government then they’re going to just vote for government largesse.”

What comes next is a subsequent process that would lead to a fall of democracy and into dictatorship, he said, adding “the parallel timelines of our national government’s uncontrolled growth and the erosion of civic literacy education are not coincidental.”

Civic literacy examination requirements for college-aged voters is not out of the question, he said, because many young people will vote without knowledge of relevant issues.

“If aspiring citizens have to pass civics examinations in order to gain, among other rights, suffrage, why not everybody else? I think it’s a good idea,” he said.

One big battle lies in preserving constitutionally prescribed state-control over education versus the federal government’s rapacious desire to regulate the same.

“You have to ask yourself, why in the world would the national government want to strip the states of their authority over education? You have to ask yourself that question and think of human nature. What’s the motive? Well, if you can control education, you can control the way the minds of the future citizens are being formed, and well then you can control the electorate, and if you control the electorate, you control power,” he said.

“That is why civic literacy education is essential, so that citizens can understand what the original purpose of our government is and make their electoral decisions accordingly.”

MORE: New Florida law forces universities to vastly expand Constitutional curriculum, civic literacy


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About the Author
College Fix contributor Mateo Guillamont is a third year political science and philosophy university student in Miami.