My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Constitution Day - Whatever that means...

I love my country just as much as any person and consider myself a true scholar in American history (not to mention that I am working on a PhD in US Public Policy), but forced patriotism has always seemed very undemocratic to me. So I was not surprised to read the following in today’s paper:

A study being released Monday (9/11/07) by a foundation that focuses on journalism and the First Amendment found that 51 percent of high school students questioned had not heard of the day when they are required by law to learn about the Constitution. The occasion is usually observed on or around Sept. 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787.

The new holiday, enacted in 2004, seems to completely miss the point of the Constitution. Simply celebrating the document does absolutely nothing to further the understanding of it. And if anything, it discourages conversation and research into it because students believe that they are getting enough of it by celebrating and discussing it for one day. It’s a single day where the lesson plan changes, some interesting facts are trotted out, and we all give thanks for our Fore Fathers. Blah. Just one more thing the students can ignore now and while later claiming that they were schooled in it.

Just compare Constitution Day with Easter. I bet you that just about anyone can give you a decent one sentence description of either, but can they actually give you any details about the holiday? I would hazard to guess that if you quizzed them they would have more questions then answers. I can almost see it now: Where did the “Easter Bunny” come from? What rights does the First Amendment really give us? Ahhhhhh?

Why doesn’t celebrating these holidays inspire us to ask more questions? It’s because we’re too busy celebrating the holiday through their commercialism and associated marketing. Nothing cheapens the memory of something quite like an inspired marketing department.

If you feel you must, go ahead and celebrate your Constitution Day as your school, civic group, or local representatives say that you should. But know this, every time that you tune in to see how wonderful our country is I’ll be sitting here rolling my eyes because I know that it is one less person who will ever understand what it truly means. Don’t believe me, quick tell me what the 9th amendment is and why it is important… .now tell me why the Easter bunny gives out chocolate.

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