Power to the People: Celebrate Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day. Does this matter to your students? Do they know their rights? How informed are they about their liberties? On September 17th, 1787, attendees at the U.S. Constitutional Convention made history by signing the one of the most important documents in the world. Now, some 222 years later, America proudly recognizes the ratification of the United States Constitution (as well as all individuals who’ve become citizens by either coming of age or through the process of naturalization).

The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Even after more than two centuries, its effects on our nation are profound. This innovative document defines the three main branches of our government. Given the fact that upcoming debates on public issues center on interpretations of the Constitution (for example, disagreements over health care reform and the Tenth Amendment), educators should help pupils discover, explore, and respect its power.

Integrate a little technology: listen to a digital audio recitation of the Constitution as read by David P. Currie, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of University of Chicago Law School.

Essential questions related to this topic:

  • What’s the best/worst way in which the Constitution has been interpreted?
  • Is the Constitution the best means of resolving the struggle between security and liberty? Explain your answer.
  • What (if anything) is the most important reason to understand or support the continued use of the Constitution?
  • Is it possible to improve the Constitution or is such an idea preposterous? If not, why not? If yes, why and how?
  • What’s the best evidence of the power of the Constitution?
  • What is the most good the Constitution has done for any individual in the history of our nation?
  • Is any portion of the Constitution weak?
  • What is the single, most important right insured by the Constitution?
  • What is the most compelling reason to deny and/or suspend an individual’s or group’s rights as guaranteed by the Constitution? Should these rights ever be suspended?
  • Which individual is the epitome of the ideals expressed in the Constitution (i.e., who is a role model for the ideals expressed in the document)?
  • How can/could the Constitution be reworded so as to express the same (or even more noble) ideals for a larger audience?

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