Should schools be required to teach the Constitution on Constitution Day? | The Tylt

Should schools be required to teach the Constitution on Constitution Day?

Per a 2004 provision passed by Congress, all federally-funded schools must teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, Constitution Day. Despite the pleasant tune of "I'm just a Bill" ringing through locker-lined hallways across the country, the 2004 law represents a rare demonstration of power by the federal government to mandate certain educational programs–which could in fact be viewed as a violation of the Constitution itself. Should the government require certain curricula?

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Both federal and state governments play a role in education, but when it comes to determining the curriculum, typically states get the final word. The tenth amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

In other words, education is a function of the states. 

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But in 2004, Congress passed a provision requiring federally-funded educational institutions to hold Constitution-related programs on Constitution Day.

According to the Library of Congress, when Congress originally instituted Constitution and Citizenship Day on Sept. 17 in 1952, the goal was to urge:

...civil and educational authorities...to make plans for the proper observance of the day and 'for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside.'

Meaning, teachers in federally-funded schools must dedicate at least a portion of their lessons on Sept. 17 to the Constitution. The federal government doesn't mandate the types of lessons on the Constitution (although it has plenty of suggestions); only that the subject be covered on this day specifically. 

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The provision led to immediate strife among teachers. Some cited "federal micromanagement" as motivation for the new mandate.

NBC reports that Becky Timmons, the senior director for government relations at the American Council on Education, maintains reservations despite good intentions behind the provision:

'I don’t think most folks on campus perceive this to be an enormous slippery slope, but it’s never good when the government tells them what to teach.'
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Simply from a practicality standpoint, the provision interrupts the natural flow of the school year. Imagine learning about the Civil War one day, the Constitution the next, and then back to North versus South the day after that. It might seem like a small issue on the other end of a diploma, but for teachers, a mandatory interruption in lesson plans is more than just a collective thorn in their side; it risks the momentum of the academic year.

As Don Gifford, an educational program consultant for history, government and social studies for the Kansas Department of Education, tells The Wichita Eagle:

'September isn’t always the best time to do this kind of thing, because kids are just getting settled into a classroom, and it requires some planning.'
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But keep in mind, the federal government isn't dictating the type of educational program schools provide on Constitution Day–only that a program exists.

Teachers and schools are free to cover the Constitution in whatever way they see fit, from the basics to debating the value of new amendments. Even PBS is giving out suggestions.

Regardless of where the mandate comes from, a conversation about the impact of the Constitution is worth having. 

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Should schools be required to teach the Constitution on Constitution Day?
#NoFedGovInEdu
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#ConstitutionIsGood