September 17 “Constitution Day”?
or “Undermining the Constitution Day”?
by Allen Quist
Issues and Action in Education
An e-letter produced by EdWatch, a nonprofit organization.
September 13, 2005
New federal law requires all schools that receive federal funds to hold a Constitution Day on or about September 17. Judging from the readily available curricula for this event, however, most schools will be more engaged in undermining the Constitution than in teaching it.
The curriculum published by the Bill of Rights Institute, for example, says that our Bill of Rights (Ninth Amendment) may very well include the rights to abortion, euthanasia, socialized medicine, homosexual activities, gay marriage and illicit drugs. One of the more interesting statements in this curriculum is the following, "The Ninth Amendment does not list any specific rights, but its inclusion in the Bill of Rights raises many possibilities" [p. 138 of the "Student Handout"]. Is this kind of instruction actually teaching our Constitution? Or is it undermining the Constitution?
The Bill of Rights Institute curriculum also teaches the doctrine of the "evolving Constitution." It says, "What people claim as rights -and what the government denies as rights under the law - has evolved since the Founders wrote the Constitution in the late eighteenth century" ["Student Handout" p. 138]. At the same time, this curriculum avoids saying that real truth exists - one of our nation’s foundational principles as stated in the Declaration of Independence. (An "evolving Constitution" means whatever the Court means it to mean.) No mention of real truth with a corresponding emphasis on a supposed "evolving Constitution" - is this type of instruction teaching the Constitution or undermining it?
This curriculum also strongly implies that there exists an "informal" means of amending the Constitution (one of the common doctrines of social studies today). The idea is that the Constitution can be changed, or amended, in two ways - by the usual (I would add "legitimate") method of passage by Congress or constitutional convention and ratification by three-fourths of the states, or by the "informal" method of Supreme Court decisions. If Supreme Court decisions amend the Constitution, then the Constitution is no longer the highest law of the land because the Supreme Court has made itself the highest law of the land. Consequently, we no longer have a real constitution - only a way of rationalizing Supreme Court authoritarianism. Teaching the doctrine of an "informal" method (even though the word "informal" may not be used) of amending the Constitution is clearly undermining the Constitution, not teaching it.
Another of the many curricula being promoted for "Constitution Day" features Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer. This curriculum is highlighted on the JusticeLearning.org web page (a project of National Public Radio and the New York Times). When you go to its Justice Learning home page, the UN logo is especially conspicuous. Click on the subject of "gun control," go to the lesson plans, and you will find the lesson, "Faces behind the guns," a lesson plan that links to the ACLU and to "Policy.com Issue of the Week: Gun Violence and Children."Needless to say, it’s gun control that is being taught and promoted, not the Second Amendment. Once again, such curricula are not teaching the Constitution; they are undermining it.
Should we be surprised at the nature of such programs? The law never requires schools to actually teach the Constitution. The left is much too clever for that. The law says only that schools shall conduct an "educational program" that is "on the United States Constitution." Does a program that undermines the Constitution qualify as meeting that law? It probably does. Since this law is itself a violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution (submitted without public hearings as an amendment by Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia), we shouldn’t be too surprised that it fails to stipulate that the Constitution actually be taught.
So how can we tell if a given curriculum is teaching the Constitution or undermining it? Let me suggest three questions that will help differentiate legitimate curricula from the many frauds:
1. What standard is being employed? That is, how is the meaning of the Constitution being determined? Is the interpretation based on what the Constitution itself says? Or is the supposed meaning of the Constitution being based on Supreme Court rulings and/or on the radical national standards (Federal Curriculum)? See the author’s book: Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How It’s Enforced, available at EdWatch.org and Amazon.com.
2. Does the curriculum recognize the importance of our nation’s foundational principles as stated in the Declaration of Independence? Our Constitution is based on and applies these Declaration principles of the God-given rights to life, liberty and property; real truth; national sovereignty and natural law. Any curriculum that suggests the Constitution may include a right to abortion, gay marriage, hard drugs and euthanasia is obviously in violation of the foundational principles that under-gird our Constitution. Any curriculum that speaks of an "evolving Constitution" or an "informal" method of amending the Constitution, or of supposed "positive rights," such as socialized medicine, are in violation of these basic principles.
3. How is the unconstitutional agenda of the left treated? For example, is the right to gun ownership by private citizens described at face value or does the Second Amendment become a "controversial issue" and/or a matter of gun control? Similarly, is the Tenth Amendment which describes the doctrine of the reserved powers for the states and people treated as it is stated in the Constitution? Or is the Tenth Amendment reduced to the "incorporation doctrine" of the Supreme Court? And are the central precepts of the United States which make it a "beacon light of freedom" promoted by the curriculum? Or are the UN and its functions highlighted instead? The question is this: Is it the Constitution that is being taught? Or is the Constitution a mere pretext for promoting left-leaning political ideology?
We need to recognize that advocates of the political left want to totally change our nation, not preserve it. They want to redefine our Constitution, not teach it. Let the buyer beware. The left is targeting patriotic Middle America; for that reason their programs are designed to look traditional. They will speak of "limited government," "property rights" and our being a "nation of law." Read past the glitter, because programs that are "on" the Constitution are usually quite different than curriculum that actually teaches the Constitution.
Allen Quist is an author, speaker, and professor of American Government
at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota.
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