Constitution Day teaching obligation draws criticism





Americans know more about TV shows like Desperate Housewives than they know about the U.S. Constitution, according to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat. That is why he wrote a federal law into the Education Department budget. It requires students to observe the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, Sept. 17, 1787.



Tomorrow is Constitution Day - the 218th anniversary - and because it falls on a weekend, schools across the nation will either commemorate it today or next week.

In Maryland, teaching about the Constitution has been a voluntary part of school curriculum for several years, said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. He said the federal law merely mandates that it be done around the time of the Constitution's anniversary.

Byrd boasts that he keeps a copy of the document in his pocket and reads it often. In July, he met with a group of federal employees and asked how many had watched Desperate Housewives. In a show of hands, the television show thoroughly trounced the Constitution.

Byrd maintains that ignorance of the Constitution is "ultimately the worst enemy of a people who want to be free."

But two Harford County school board members have a problem with the new law.

Mark M. Wolkow said Harford County is already teaching the Constitution and that it is a bad idea for the federal government to order curricula be taught at the local level. He added that requiring something be taught on a specific day causes disruption for teachers.

"If Congress doesn't have anything better to do then they need to go home," said Robert B. Thomas Jr., a school board member and former school board president. He is "very against any mandates coming from the federal level to the state or local level that take away local authority to make those decisions."



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Lori Diaz - 9/17/2005

During my course in American History I teach the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the House of Burgesses, The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. I spend more than six weeks on the foundations and workings of our federal system...in December and January when it makes sense in our curriculum. To be mandated to stop everything and, absent of context, teach the Constitution, is a waste of a day.


Robert Harbison - 9/17/2005

Frankly I think that the School board memebers need to sit down and take some notes.

I mean get serious here, 70% of High School graduates can't name the CENTURY that the Civil War was fought in. The same percent can't put the CW, WWI, WWII, and the Korean War in Chronological order. About that same number thinks Washington D.C. is somewhere west of St. Louis, and Can't locate Iraq, Britain, and Europe on a LABELED map.

I'm ALL FOR getting kids to learn a bit of History.

If *I* can rearrange my teaching plan, I'm sure the local schools can do it too.

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