Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Arizona Re-Asserts Its Claim to Having the Nation's Stupidest Politicians

State legislators. From Arizona. Talking about education. Gold, these people, sheer gold. Alas, only for Curmudgeons who like to make snarky comments about the less adept amongst us.

Anyway, there’s an actual bill—HB 2467, to be precise—sponsored by a couple of the dimmer bulbs in a state legislature not exactly renowned for its luminosity, which (except for the window-dressing) consists exclusively of the following:
Beginning in the 2013‑2014 school year, in addition to fulfilling the course of study and assessment requirements prescribed in this chapter, before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:

“I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; so help me God.”
Bob Thorpe: Not a genius.
The sponsors of this… uh… proposal, GOP (duh) Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, and Steve Smith, seem to think that crafting inanities like this is a good use of their time and of taxpayer’s money. I beg to differ. Thorpe, apparently the principal progenitor of this balderdash, purports to “[promote] Constitutional freedoms.” The ones he believes in, at least: (2nd amendment: good; 9th amendment: usually good but sometimes scary; 1st amendment… there’s a 1st amendment?)

The oath itself, identical to that sworn by United States Senators, and a variation on the theme of the ones sworn by new citizens, political leaders, and members of the military, may be about the silliest thing I’ve seen in a while… and I spend a fair amount of time trying to ferret out nonsense like this.

A couple of left-leaning commentators have seized on this and want to concentrate on the insistence on invoking God in a public school. I’m not a 1st amendment lawyer, but I’m guessing this one is up for grabs. As a country, we purport to believe in the separation of church and state (well, all but the Tea Party ignoramuses do), but “In God We Trust” is still on our currency, “so help me God” still is recited by everyone from politicians to trial witnesses, and woe betide the President who doesn’t close every freaking speech by invoking God’s blessing on the nation. On the other hand, if school prayer is a no-no, then probably forcing an atheist student to swear by a God he doesn’t believe in strikes me as being a bit over the Constitutional line.

Secondly, there are likely to be a fair number of non-citizens who graduate from Arizona high schools, and I’m not talking (only) about illegals. I’ve had at least a few students—that I know of—who went to high school in the US, but are (or were, at the time) citizens of Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom… you get the point. Demanding that non-citizens swear an oath of fealty to a country of which they’re not even citizens: more than a little creepy.

My particular favorite part of the bill, though, is about “[taking] this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” Let’s think about that for a minute. It makes sense if one has successfully run for office or volunteered for military service, but in the context of just trying to graduate from high school, it’s transcendently stupid. Look at it this way: the oath is unnecessary if the student is willing to swear it freely, and simply a coerced exclamation from those who aren’t. Claiming a declaration is offered “without any mental reservation” is, frankly, nothing more than an insistence on prevarication. Anyone with literally no reservations about what some idiot politician (there’s another kind?) might decide he’s sworn to do is, frankly, too stupid to be granted a diploma.

Because that is, indeed, the rub: I kinda get the feeling that the quintet of buffoons who sponsored the bill think that the fact that I voted for Obama makes me an enemy of the state. Good thing I got my high school diploma at a different place and time, or the Bozo Brothers would be showing up on my doorstep, revocation order clutched tightly in their sweaty little fists.

So the new bill is unconstitutional, restrictive, and ethically problematic. It is as unenforceable as it is ineffective. But the real problem: it’s just plain dumb.

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