America

I RECEIVE REGULAR missives proposing that we rewrite the Constitution. You've probably seen them, too. They come in chain letters passing from computer-to-computer around the Internet. They originate with members of both sides of the ideological divide. I don't pass them on because, more often than not, their concerns are rooted in their ignorance of constitutional law. The problem is that schools today are staffed by teachers who were never properly educated in the Constitution. How can they possibly teach anything they so poorly understand themselves?
There hasn't been much attention paid to the Constitution in our schools since this episode of Schoolhouse Rock, “The Preamble”, was aired in 1975. Civics has disappeared from most school curricula. Today, civics education testing is required in only nine states for graduation from high school. Citizens are urged to vote to fulfill their civic responsibility, but there is no emphasis placed on their responsibility to understand what they are voting for. 

I don't suppose that anyone would be thinking about the Constitution if it weren't for the Tea Party. Much maligned as racist, homophobic, Islamiphobic, etc, the truth is that they have at least brought the Constitution into the public conscience. People are talking about it. Some few may have even read it. In essence, it has come back into our lives. It's been absent far too long.

As a student of law and history, I have frequently been frustrated in discussing anything across the ideological divide because few others know anything about the structure of our government. They want to change what they do not understand. When I ask them to explain their understanding, they become frustrated by their ignorance.

The Public Broadcasting System has chosen this moment to stimulate the dialog. They are producing a four-part series, Constitution USA, that will begin airing on May 7th at 9:00 pm EDT (check local listings).

I can't say if the PBS program content will be fair and unbiased. Many argue that PBS management is biased towards a liberal/leftist/progressive ideology, and there is evidence that this may be true. However, in my opinion, any discussion of the Constitution must be helpful. Even if PBS distorts it, those distortions may then serve as talking points from which future dialog can grow.

So, mark it on your calendars – May 7th. Watch the series. We can get together afterwards and debate. However, if you are inclined to argue that the present Constitution is out of date, in need of reform, or should be replaced, you should first understand the one we already have otherwise I won't lend much credence to what you have to say.
PJTV host Scott Ott produced a fair overview of the U.S. Constitution. It can be viewed in eighteen bite-sized pieces of four minutes or less each. Unfortunately, only Chapter 1, embedded above, is available free on YouTube. You'll have to subscribe to PJTV to view the other seventeen. If you can get through them in a month or less, it will only cost you five dollars (US). That's a small investment for such an important subject. However, if you put at least this much effort in learning about the Constitution, you will be better able to form opinions on current events and defend them, especially when you encounter someone like me.
 


Comments

04/26/2013 22:49

Jack, The Constitution is one of the most discussed and least read documents I know of with the possible exception of the Bible. I applaud your efforts to get people reading and studying it. If nothing else,it would be a good starting place for the discussion.

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Jack Durish
04/26/2013 22:55

I fear they've been discussing it a lot these days. Hopefully, they'll take a moment to learn what they're talking about or shut up

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04/28/2013 16:06

Being a retired educator, I am still appalled at the lack of knowledge of the average American citizen about the United States. I will promote this on my blog, Awakenings (http://awakenings2012.blogspot.com/), which is about America and strongly supports our military.

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Jack Durish
04/28/2013 16:59

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Maybe we need to bring back our retired educators to mentor the newer ones who seem to have been denied a proper civics education.

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04/28/2013 17:35

You may be on to something big! Watering down or worse, eliminating, civics from the curriculum is weakening our nation.

Jack Durish
04/28/2013 17:40

Is it any wonder our children don't respect our nation's traditional values. They don't know what they are!

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04/28/2013 18:28

It is truly sad, Jack. All of this is the main premise behind the publishing of my latest book. It is just getting the word out and promoting, promoting, promoting!

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04/30/2013 11:10

Just adding so I can continue to be notified of comments to this post. I clicked the wrong link. OOPS!

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Jack Durish
04/30/2013 11:33

Don't fret. We all have a loose nut behind the keyboard

04/30/2013 01:46

I live in California and there are so many debates about it that I see it in the news mentioned only when guns are mentioned or someone gets hurt behind a stupid act. As an owner of many rifles, I cherish my rights and have wondered the same thing too.

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Jack Durish
04/30/2013 11:36

Just keep in mind that the Bill of Rights doesn't grant us rights that are "naturally" ours. It merely warns Congress not to infringe upon them. If "they" succeed in replacing the Constitution, they cannot take away our natural rights. They can only grant themselves permission to infringe upon them and free men and women will have the right to resist.

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