Teaching the Constitution and Declaration

The Telegraph last week ran an article about a Nashua teacher who was picked to go to Philadelphia and learn about teaching the US Constitution.  Nancy Hamann not only had the honor of being the only NH teacher but being one of the rare ones who were picked being as she's a first grade teacher.

Let me start with a few excepts from the article:

"Some people say, 'First grade: what do they have to do with the Constitution?' " said Hamann, a first-grade teacher at New Searles Elementary School in Nashua. "But we've got to start when they're young."

I read that and nearly jumped out of my seat.  Nancy gets it!

"I explain to them that we need these rules, we need these laws," she said. "You have them in your house and in your neighborhood. We have them in the city."

How can you read quotes like this and not love this woman.  I read the first half of the article and wanted to write to my local school board asking they make an attempt to recruit her to Merrimack.

Nancy however isn't the main story.  Let's continue...

When Constitution Day was enacted in 2004, it drew some criticism from educators. The law requires that all publicly funded schools, including colleges, teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, or a day nearby if it falls on a weekend.

Some argued that requiring schools to teach a topic on a specific day was in direct contrast to the very principles established by the 10th Amendment, which deals with state sovereignty.

While I do feel that teaching about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independents should both be required in schools, I have to agree with the above argument.  Not only is a direction to teach the Constitution from a federal level in and of itself Unconstitutional, the whole federal level Department of Education is Unconstitution as it is not one of the duties specifically given the federal government in Article I Section 8.

Some critics of No Child Left Behind have argued that topics like social studies and science have been squeezed out of elementary school classrooms because of the focus on math and reading.

Hamann said she manages to find a way to cover social studies and science in her class, but sometimes it takes a little creativity.

Here we start to hit on the real issue.  Topics such as Social Studies and Science are being squeezed out by new requirements our government continues to place on schools.  So why I wonder do we not want equal time taught to the same subjects we learned in school.  Why are we not teaching children about their rights as US Citizens?

Then I read an article posted by someone I know on facebook.  The article can be found in full HERE.

As part of a new proposed lesson plan put forth by Texas School Board member David Barton, students are asked to read the first 126 words of the Declaration of Independence.

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Now learning this section of the Declaration isn't anything new or shocking, the article already points out that Texas state law requires students to learn and recite the above from memory.  The controversy comes in David's request that students actually understand the above section, specifically the following 5 points:

1) There is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature

Whether you believe in God or not, the above statement is what Jefferson believed when he wrote the Declaration.  "which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitles them"

2) There is a Creator

"by their Creator"

3) The Creator gives to man certain unalienable rights

"they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"

4) Government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual

"That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men"

5) Below God-given rights and moral law, government is directed by the consent of the governed

"deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Of course because there is mention of God the liberal left want to prevent even the Declaration of Independence from being actually understood.  They would in fact prefer that such ideas were not even taught at all.

The argument used is the first amendment however the first amendment has been twisted over time as well.  That is why thinking is analyzing of words is viewed as a bad thing and perhaps why so few teachers like Nancy above even teach the Constitution in detail.

Let's look closer at the first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The above amendment protects a couple different rights.

The obvious are:

1) freedom of speech

2) freedom of the press

3) freedom to peaceble assemble (which is trampled by the government on a nearly daily basis, but that's the topic for a different article)

4) freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances

The remaining which are made up of the part I have in bold are those what are often the most misunderstood.

5) prevents the government from establishing a religion

6) freedom to exercise your own chosen religion

What it does not do is prevent you from ever hearing the mention of a God.

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

The reasoning that Jefferson and some of the other founding fathers tied our countries roots into the belief in God was not to create a religion but because a just society needs some level of morality and to once again quote Jefferson the question boils down to this...

If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God. -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814

Like it or not, our founders believed in a God and the documents that founded this country acknowledge a God.  We should be taught about our countries past and the truth about it's roots.