Bellevue Public Schools’ civics committee mandated by Nebraska law

Jacki Petrow, Editor-in-Chief

The Bellevue School Board  appointed three members to the civics committee, a panel dedicated to any curriculum related to American systems, at their meeting on Jan. 9.

School board President Maureen McNamara said that the purpose of the committee is to review policies on Americanism. They read textbooks and make changes to curriculum when need be.

“We’re charged with teaching these things for students to understand what it’s like to be an American and how to be a good American and be a good citizen,” McNamara said.

State law mandates that every school board in Nebraska have a civics committee, or as it was previously known, an Americanism committee. The statute also includes other mandates for schools, such as requiring elementary schools to teach patriotic songs and respect for the American flag.

Government teacher Tara Patomson explained the historical significance of these committees, as laws on the subject were first passed in the state of Nebraska in 1949.

“[The policy] harkens back to the Cold War era, making sure that our textbooks promote, you know, democracy and patriotism and things like that,” Patomson said.

McNamara also offered her thoughts on how politicized the topic of curriculum, especially history, has become. She said that they seek feedback from students and parents, and work to balance differing points of view.

“Sometimes we hear from parents, and students, and they’ve got some great ideas.” McNamara said. “But we don’t want to just stop and change everything because of one opinion or thought.” 

McNamara said that, overall, the point of the committee is “just to teach what it’s like to be an American, because we’re a democracy and not all countries are like that.”