Every day, writers across the political spectrum publish articles that illustrate the ways our government and our nation have drifted away from the fundamental principles of freedom upon which this nation was constructed. There is a reason for this: Too few Americans know what those principles are or why they are essential to freedom.
There was a time when the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were the foundation from which schools taught lessons in civics, social studies and American history. In recent years, these documents have been overshadowed by new ideas of global harmonization and universal human rights. The federal government has hastened this transformation by funding the Center for Civic Education’s curriculum development projects, and then, effectively forcing these text materials into the public schools.
Supreme Court justices have admitted to looking not to the Constitution, but to “international law,” to justify some of their decisions. Hillary Clinton’s vow to get rid of the Electoral College shows her disdain for a fundamental principle of freedom. What’s worse, very few people have ever read the Declaration of Independence, and fewer still have read the U.S. Constitution.
Sen. Robert Byrd included a rider in the 2005 appropriations bill that requires school students and federal employees to receive information about the U.S. Constitution during the week of Sept. 17 – Constitution Week. This came as good news to organizations such as the National Center for Constitutional Studies, and the Environmental Conservation Organization, which have been promoting study of the Constitution for years.
NCCS has developed a magnificent package of material for constitutional studies that includes a pocket-size Constitution, which also contains the Declaration of Independence, and a DVD of the film “A More Perfect Union.” This movie was produced during the Bicentennial and was endorsed by the Bicentennial Commission. It dramatizes the people and the process that produced the U.S. Constitution. The DVD provides both a feature film and the same program broken into five segments for classroom presentation and study.
Nearly 2 million of these pocket-size Constitutions have been distributed, as well as hundreds of thousands of the DVDs in recent years. NCCS has just completed mailing 100,000 of these packages to schools across the nation, to be received in time for use during Constitution Week next month. More than 200 individual volunteers gathered to help prepare the packages for mailing in a weeklong work session. The entire project was paid for by private donors who realize the need for school students to learn about the principles of freedom directly from the documents in which they are enshrined.
Private organizations and individuals are also buying these materials for distribution to the schools, churches and civic organizations in their communities. Colleges, fire departments and police forces are also using these materials for studies within their organizations. Perhaps this initiative will do what the public schools have not done: reintroduce the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to this generation of Americans.
It is absolutely essential that Americans learn how the principles of freedom are responsible for America’s fantastic growth and why our continued freedom is dependent upon them. As Sen. Byrd put it: “One will not protect what one does not value. And one cannot value what one does not understand.”
Congress has continually scoffed at proposals to force legislators to cite a specific constitutional authority to justify new legislation. Congress schemed to bypass the Constitution by declaring “trade agreements” to be law – rather than treaties, which must be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Members of Congress – perhaps more than others – need to rediscover our roots by discovering the U.S. Constitution.
But in the end, it is the people who must require their congressmen to respect the Constitution. If the people don’t know or don’t care about the Constitution, then they are ill-equipped to pass judgment on their representatives. The current election season provides an excellent opportunity for people to confront the candidates for the nation’s highest offices and ask them to explain their position on constitutional issues. It is not enough to simply ask whether they support the Constitution. Of course they will say they do. Ask them if they will require trade agreements to be designated as treaties, or if they will defend the Electoral College, and see if their response is consistent with the Constitution.
Of course, you will need to know what the Constitution says. Do you?
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