Friday, September 16, 2005

Constitution Day

Starting this year, every school in the country that receives federal financial aid must teach the Constitution on September 17 - the day the Constitution was officially adopted back in 1787.

Because this year, the 17th falls on a Saturday, schools are free to choose between Friday or Monday. And though the provision mandates that schools teach the Constitution, it does not express how they must teach it, which leaves a lot to the imagination. The article I linked to above mentions Wittenberg University in Ohio, which will offer free pizza for a year to the winner of a Constitution essay contest. A Music instructor at Weslayan in Connecticut has put the Bill of Rights to music for the orchestra to perform.

Now, here comes a sticky situation. Typically, educational decisions have been left up to the individual states, thanks to the 10th Amendment. Vanderbilt University plans to approach Constitution Day with a debate on the Constitutionality of the law mandating Constitution Day, whether it violates the First Amendment's right to free speech. The Law School's Dean, Edward Rubin was quoted in the article, "I'm surprised that the Congress and the president would choose to honor the Constitution by violating it."

According to the article, federal employees also are to receive Constitutional training.

I now leave it to you to decide whether this is a good law, a bad law, or a bad law with good intentions.


Michelle said...

What a grand idea. I wish they would teach our Constitution here.

Gramma said...

It may violate the constitution, but teaching it does seem like a good idea. I memorized the preamble - didn't everyone? - and studied the constitution itself when I took Government in high school. Too bad we need a law to tell us to teach who and what our country is.

Sam said...

I think this is a bad law: most college students are ignorant of the Constitution. This will ensure that 100% of their constitutional knowledge comes from college professors. I doubt they'll learn anything but how the Constitution is all about slavery and oppression. I think it would be better to know nothing than to know the wrong info.

Steve said...

Well, Sam,
The law applies to all schools, not all colleges and universities. This means that students will get to have their minds corrupted all the way up the educational chain.

Is it a bad thing to have a day where our students learn about our guiding document de minimus?

Once upon a time, we taught civics in school as mandatory curriculum. Is it necessarily a bad thing to reintroduce it? One could argue that this is a start, and that the schools and school districts should expound on it.

However, the Constitution isn't covered in the trackable knowledge testing that No Child Left Behind sprouted, which makes it extraneous information, and thus not something we teach. Go Progress!

Matthew said...

Exposing students to the Constitution is good, but leaving it to the schools, like Vanderbilt, to put this into practice leaves a lot to chance.