Sound Destruction: CONSTITUTION DAY

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


(click the image to hear School House Rocks - "I'm Just A Bill")

(note: emphasis below provided by me)

Last year Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, added an amendment (to an appropriations bill) designating September 17 (the actual birthdate of the Constitution) as Constitution Day, mandating the teaching of the Constitution in schools that receive federal funds, as well as federal agencies.

The focus on No Child Left Behind testing, especially in the elementary grades, has put an emphasis on core subjects like math and reading, resulting in less time for civics. Many high schoolers lack knowledge about their most basic civil liberties.
A study titled "The Future of the First Amendment," commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and released early this year, listed among its findings that nearly three-fourths of high school students either do not know how they feel about the First Amendment or admit they take it for granted, and nearly half of the students surveyed incorrectly believe that the government has the authority to censor the Internet.

So, let me get this straight. Teachers are so pressured and busy teaching to the test because of the NCLBA that there's no time to teach our children about their civil liberties and the rich history of the Constitution. But, we should be just tickled that now we now have one single solitary day a year to make up for it. What benefit could come from not knowing your constitutional rights in America? Is ignorance bliss? If you don't know your rights, will you miss them when they're gone?


Blogger Maine said...

I love weird states where teachers have to teach for a test. Like, here in VA, the kids had to take the SOL's every year, and when I went to the local junior high school to tutor them, I found the most amazing thing.

These kids all knew how to multiply numbers. But they didn't realize that multiplying a number meant "taking a number of items and adding that same number X times." Like, they knew how to go through the motions and carry the one to pass the test, but they had no clue what the hell they were even accomplishing. Nobody had bothered to explain it to them.

And it was like that in all subjects. They knew how to do things, but they never knew why or what they were doing in the first place. We're raising robots!

12:35 PM  
Blogger Sar said...

You're right, Maine. What's concept without theory? And I'd imagine robots would make for nice, docile, tow-the-line citizens who can't think for themselves so they don't recognize & question the corruption that surrounds them.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Kid Bastard said...

Well, our system of education has been flawed for a while. It's based on the old Prussian system which was designed to produce obedient soldiers. When instituted here, it was to produce compliant workers for industry. In this day and age, where the pressures of global competition in business require critical, lateral and imaginative thinking, the American education system falls far short of preparing its students.

So yes, we are raising robots, and I can't help but think that makes those in power very happy. This ties in with your notion, Sar, that if children are not taught their basic rights, they won't know enough to miss them (and fight for them) when they're taken away.

12:56 PM  
Blogger tlm said...

Not to sound like a broken record, but there is no such thing as "Constitutional Rights." It really burns my ass to hear people use that phrase so much. (But then again, look how our schools teach civics now... No surprise.)

Our rights to do anything did not come from a piece of paper. We should just be thankful (especially on Constitution Day) that our rights are protected. Well, most of the time. :)

1:40 PM  
Blogger nedhead said...

Hey Maine, as a person who went through four semesters of Calculus, let me tell you...f the proofs! Gimme the quick answer please!

All kidding aside, how do we teach theory and concept? College is one thing, high school, though? How are the school systems in the "better" nations structured? Does anybody know? The little I know about Italy is they have "specialized" schools, the equivalent of our high schools, but instead of breadth, they go for depth. But where do they rank?

I don't necessarily agree with the "robot" theory here. It does not take a good education system to create intelligence. A good school system hones intelligence. And booksmarts don't necessarily make you a revolutionist or non-conformist. Are all these comparisons to foreign achievement based on comparative standardized tests? I think we are all in agreement here about the dangers of standardization. Where am I going with this? OH yeah:

Bunch o' cynics in here!

2:37 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

It's interesting that we require immigrants to learn U.S. civics before become citizens but not natives.

TLM, I don't think I understand your point. Can you explain what you mean? Is that a natural law argument?

3:13 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Oh, and before I forget. Schoolhouse Rocks rocks.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Maine said...


But isn't calculus 100 times easier to understand when you stop thinking about f(x) and you start thinking about how much it would cost to top off the gas in your tank in two days if the price raises 12 cents a week and your car uses 0.7 gallons per day?

Sure, calc is hard, but unless you know why you're doing it, its useless to anyone besides the person making you do it. Are we raising our children to be followers? Or are we raising children with the capability to lead?

And no, booksmarts don't change your personality, but knowledge of things like civics and the "why" behind the "how" do teach kids that there's more to life than understanding how to do shit. Sometimes you have to be able to understand whether or not to do shit too. If you don't understand why you should say yes or no, then you'll never make the decision on your own.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Omnipotent Poobah said...

I think we may have already reached the critical mass where we no longer have enough teachers who understand the Constitution themselves to teach it.

That giant sucking sound going south is the sound of our liberties going down the drain of ignorance. For my part, I'm only going to go when they pry my cold, dead fingers off my copy of the Constitution.

I may be one of the cynical ones, but it's my schtick. It's what I do.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Sar said...

There's a common theme I'm seeing throughout many of your comments. Creativity, and free thinking. This is my point. Teachers are forced to drill numbers and words and facts into the heads of our children. Sure, they'll all make great debators and regurgitators of information, but what thinkers and philosophers and inventors? I'm worried about the supression of creativity. How does our civil liberties play into all of this? Just as Kid B reinforced, how are our children apt to stand up for their rights if they don't know them? Further to that end, like Doug said, how come immigrants are required to know them and the balance of citizens not?

Oh, and thanks, Doug, for acknowledging my School House Rocks bit! :)

8:23 AM  
Blogger araider said...

when I took my citizenship test, they gave me about a 50 page manual about the constitution. I had to rethink back to all my social studies classes.
When I finally went to take the test, all they asked was who was the first and 16th president and who the current president is.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

Too much interference in the schools these days. I'm all for kids learning about the constitution, but it's silly to mandate a Constitution Day.

I have a teacher friend who teaches first grade. She had to do "constitution day" with them. It was required.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Sar said...

TLM - I'm not igorning you, just still trying to figure out your angle. Do you mean you're tired of hearing people cry bullshit because our rights are slowly diminishing in the name of the Patriot Act? I don't mean that to sound inflamatorily directed at you per say. I just get equally frustrated at people taking their rights for granted and not caring and/or thinking it's okay that the government continues to invade our collective American freedom.

Araider - that's really interesting. Still, you probably know more about the constitution than all of us here!

TLP - As a student I was lucky if I could remember something covered in a marking period, let alone a month, week, and much less a day (though you could've given me a lifetime of math and it never would have stuck - I'll leave that to the Maine's and Nedhead's of the world).

The Constitution strikes me as being pretty vital when it comes to the history of our nation, and as it applies in civics and social studies, it's deserving of more than a day's worth of attention in my mind.

3:22 PM  
Blogger tlm said...

Nah.. My beef is that too many kids grow up thinking the wonderful federal government is the source of all of our rights and protections. (It's a minor pet peeve of mine, so just ignore it. :))

6:00 PM  
Blogger Sar said...

TLM - Did you...did you just refer to the federal government with tounge in cheek then express a pet peeve and tell me to ignore it? What's happened to you? Who are you and what have you done with our TLM?! ;)

6:59 PM  

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