Volume 7, Issue 1 University of Houston
'Constitution Day' won't make us better informed
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., wants everyone to know a little more about the Constitution. He wants it so much he's inserted a provision into a new federal spending bill that would require schools to dedicate time to teaching about the Constitution.
The rule would apply to public and private schools receiving federal aid and would set up Sept. 17 -- the anniversary of the document's signing in 1787 -- as a sort of "Constitution Day" which schools would have to use to give special instruction on the historic document.
No one would argue that we don't need any more civic education. Most American citizens cannot name each of the rights guaranteed in the first 10 amendments, and there are some who don't know what the three branches of government are.
Under the plan, individual schools would organize their own programs to meet the requirement. School-wide projects, guest speakers or simple classroom lessons are possible ways to feature the Constitution.
The question is: will dedicating one day to our formative document actually make us better informed? What will this one "Constitution Day" do that our current social studies and American history requirements don't already accomplish? Here's a better idea: more money for civics education.
Education critics worry that the federal rule only paves the way for government encroachment on school curriculum. The rule also supposes that schools that don't adequately teach the Constitution could lose funding -- a little harsh punishment for not having "Constitution Day."
Byrd's got the right idea -- we need more civic education
-- but a lame plan.