Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Happy Constitution Day!

Today is Constitution Day. You can read some stories about this brand new holiday--celebrated only since 2004--here and here.

Here’s a rather depressing survey focusing on the state of high school students’ First Amendment knowlege, a companion to the survey about which I blogged here. (Here is a copy of the survey form; unfortunately I can’t at the moment get access to a full survey report.)

Last (and perhaps least), the kind folks at The American Spectator Online have generously posted a short piece I wrote formalizing some of the thoughts I posted here last week. This new survey confirms my thought that we have a long way to go in our efforts at civic education.

Discussions - 8 Comments

It's one of the constant themes of thinking on US civic education that it is not as good as it should be and that things were better in the past. Why do you think that is?

My sense is that those who make that kind of argument are already operating from a position of criticism of the perceived constitutional mainstream - which is why you hear that argument both from the ACLU with respect to surveillance policies and from the anti-abortion right with respect to Roe. Are complaints about civic education just a function of current interest groups, or is there something more fundamental, more functionally neutral, at stake? Is there a way to measure constitutional ignorance in a neutral fashion? I'm really not sure.

I glanced at the "key findings" in that survey:

  1. More than half the students hadn't heard of "Constitution Day."
  2. 3/4 of students don't know how they "feel" about the First Amendment.
  3. Students are more focused "free expression" as it relates to themselves; less interested in others
  4. Parents, not teachers, have the greatest influence on student choices for news
  5. More students are turning to the Internet for news

I hadn't heard of "Constitution Day" either. But then again, I'm 47 and long gone from high school.

Re: point two -- interesting use of the word "feel" rather than "think."

Point three is not at all surprising. The same holds for anything the kids might ponder.

I would think those on this site would welcome the findings in point four.

Ditto for the final point.

People may be ignorant of how the Constitution is now, twisted beyond recognition by politicians, "case law," and interest groups (pro-aborts, the ACLU, Americans United, etc.). But they are woefully ignorant of the Constitution as originally intended.

As I made the point in the other thread, the First Amendment applies only to Congress. It says "Congress shall make no law." That is such plain English that it is amazing how that has been twisted. The First Amendment has NOTHING to do with what some school board decides to teach or whatever. The First Amendment was never intended to apply to States or localities and the 14th Amendment was not intended to "incorporate" it as it has been (mis)"interpreted."

Sorry to be self-referential, but click on my name for a link to an article I wrote on originalist judicial philosophy that makes the above point at length.

The Constitution was written in plain English ... designed even for those that intellects like to demean as not having enough knowledge and should 'pipe down' could understand.

The problem is, sadly, with the elites themselves, which includes the lawyers who supposedly 'interpret' the Constition for the common man's supposed benefit.

But hey, what does Bachelor holding fellows such as myself know when supposed intellects can interpret better and with more obfuscation?

Uncle Joe - I was shocked to see that so many high school students do not know much about this fundamental peice of American history.

I remember my American history teacher in 11th grade (roughly 8 years ago) telling us that he couldn't get into detail about the Constitution; there was too much other information we needed to know. I don't remember too much - maybe if he had gone into greater details about concepts and not worried about the amount of stuff he was cramming into our heads - we would remember more 5 or 10 years down the road.

It seems to have gone downhill from there. What a shame.


Once you get your degree and get a teaching position, see about Ashland's MAHG program.

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