Friday, September 16, 2005

So, I broke the law today.

Yep. That's right. Perhaps the next time I post will be from jail. Except it won't.

As I'm sure many of you are aware, tomorrow is National Constitution Day. The government was very upset that the general public doesn't know much about the Constitution, so they mandated that public schools and other federal programs do something to increase awareness of our founding document once a year. Since they set the first one for a Saturday, our school was supposed to celebrate today.

Oh, dear, where to begin?

First of all, if teaching students government (as we do for all 9th graders in our district) all year long doesn't help them understand the Constitution, then how will focusing on it one day help? And, if after that year they still don't get it, how will stopping in the middle of World History (10th graders) to spend ONE DAY on it help either? There is, in fact, Constitutional education going on in schools. It might not be working, but that is an entirely different matter.

But that's not the biggest issue for me. So the government tried to fix a problem and failed. What else is new?

My issue with this is that I do not like the government telling me what I have to teach on any particular given day. This is scary folks. It is not a great precedent. It's a new level of federal regulation. Dare I remind you that Hitler gained support for his anti-Semitic ways by controlling what students learned?

Okay, I know that's a very far stretch. Or is it? To me, what this whole Constitution Day is really about is patriotism. At best, it's strongly encouraged patriotism and at worst it's forced patriotism. I do not think it coincidental that they chose a date so close to September 11th.

Additionally, as one man from the CATO Institute put it, "we think it's ironic that they are supporting education about the Constitution through unconstitutional means." (Or something like that, I don't have the newspaper article in front of me.)

So, today I did not teach about the Constitution. My tenth graders learned about Hammurabi's Code and my eleventh graders learned how to write an AP essay. In two weeks they'll be writing an essay on the Constitution, and they will be glad that I talked to them about how to write essays today and talked about the Constitution where it fits in the curriculum, which is AFTER the American Revolution. I invoked what I believe is my constitutional right to NOT teach the Constitution. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure at least some of America's framers would be with me.

By the way, I will not be going to jail. The law included no enforcement powers. So if you didn't celebrate, no worries.