“In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson, The Kentucky Resolution, 1798
“Our Constitution professedly rests upon the good sense and attachment of the people. This basis, weak as it may appear, has not yet been found to fail.” — John Quincy Adams, Letter to William Vans Murray, January 27, 1801
For how long have we been complaining of the “dumbing down” of the public education experience? I can remember at least twenty years’ worth of wondering why our schools have done nothing to truly educate the children in its classrooms. When our children are not taught the truth about things in the U.S. Constitution, especially something as basic as
their right to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to practice their religion, there’s something wrong with the school system.
Let’s not even start on what some college professors think about the Second Amendment. They teach in grade schools lessons that would make most 2nd Amendment supporters run screaming from the room. If it’s not teaching them to think differently about their 2nd Amendment rights, it’s outright lying to them about their 2nd Amendment rights. Then there’s the apparent police state being established in public schools to make kids afraid of guns.
It is in this effort that the public schools have prevailed and loosened the “attachment of the people” to the U.S. Constitution and those of us who profess to love the Constitution — and all of the Amendments and freedoms that go with it — have failed the most. It wasn’t just the “dumbing down” of public education that was being accomplished. It was the redirection of the country via misinforming the populace of their constitutional rights, what they meant to their lives and how the U.S. Constitution made America the best country on earth to live, grow and die.
When my neighbor’s daughter told me in 2008 that America was a bad country and that we started wars all over the world I asked her which wars we started; name one. She could not. I asked her who told her that we started wars all over the world. She told me it was her teacher (a supporter of our current president). I challenged her to ask her teacher which wars America had started and to come back to me with a list. I have yet to hear from her. This is part of the pattern.
Teach the students that America is a horrible country, teach them about all of the bad things (slavery to suffrage; shootings of Martin Luther King, Jr., to Ronald Reagan; prohibition and the gangsters of that era to the dropping of nuclear bombs on Japan during WWII) and you have a twisted picture of America. Fail to teach them about the truths of what happens in other countries that are far worse and you have not just a twisted picture, but a deformity far beyond the recognition of truth, history, or fact. You also weaken the hold school children will have on their love of country and thus, on the Constitution. After all, if it weren’t for the evil men who wrote the evil Constitution in the way it was written (a black man counted in the census as 2/3 of a person, etc.) our country wouldn’t be able to be so bad. If we had a different form of government — say, for instance, if there were a king, or the “elites” ruled over us, or no rule of law at all — we wouldn’t be so bad. America would be better off.
“Rarely do we focus predominantly on the text, on original meaning, on tradition, on constitutional structure, on claims of changed circumstances, and on other forms of interpretive argument. 3 We know that in reality, to practicing lawyers, the Constitution is indeed what the Court says it is. And influenced by this reality, we mostly teach and critique the Court’s pronouncements. Even when we ask our students to set aside the caselaw and return to first principles, they often find it hard to put the famous precedents out of their minds. [my italics]”
I ask you, how can the attachment of the people be strong enough to maintain our U.S. Constitution if even colleges are not teaching the “original meaning” or tradition or “constitutional structure”? Shouldn’t at least law schools focus on such?
If we had maintained our attachment to the U.S. Constitution and all that with it comes, would not we be more likely to be capable of the first quote: binding the power of man’s mischief down with the chains of the Constitution? Few of our children and grandchildren even know the U.S. Constitution and what it means to our country. How on earth is such ignorance going to stand them in good stead to go into the future without those of us who remember the Constitution there to help them stay free?
In the culture of “low information voters” who are more focused on Hollywood’s faces and factions, is there any way for our children to be capable of standing against the rise of tyranny in their ignorance; indeed, of even recognizing its rise? As it is, we have failed not just the next generation but generations to come for not teaching them what the Constitution is, how it matters in their lives and why we should hold strong to it and all that it means to us, to our country and to our posterity (as well as our prosperity). If we fail to recognize that now, it is not we who shall pay the price, but our grandchildren and their grandchildren, for America will be forever changed. Then they shall have the right — if they recognize it — to point the finger of blame at us.
Let us strive to change that surging tide. Start talking about the Constitution to your children and grandchildren. Tell them about the truths within it and what those truths mean to their freedom. Tell them about the lives of the Founders and talk to them about their sacrifices. Don’t just make it a one-time thing. Make it a regular feature of your relationship with them. Get them excited to learn about the true history of America. Make their attachment to the U.S. Constitution grow as they watch yours grow and flourish. Otherwise you will be the one to whom they can point and say, “Freedom? Nec habeo, nec careo, nec curo.” (I have not, I want not, I care not.)