Friday, September 3, 2010

Learning about our Constitution

From the 06 September 2010 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

In a recent column for the Greater Niagara Newspapers in which he addressed Constitutional amendments that he’d like to do away with, Scott Leffler began a paragraph with this thought: “For those of you without a pocket Constitution (in other words, everyone but Bob Confer)…”

Being that Scott can sometimes be a kidder, most readers probably thought he was joking at my expense.

Actually, he wasn’t.

I really do have a pocket Constitution on me at all times. It’s been a habit of mine for years. That may seem somewhat over the top in regard to patriotism and perhaps a little nerdy, but the Constitution is my Bible. That simple yet powerful document is the guiding light to what is the greatest experiment in self-government - and, from that, the greatest society - that Mankind has ever known and will ever know, the United States of America. I strongly believe it’s our founding principles that made our nation great by allowing and inspiring Americans to be the very best that we can be. America is unique in that our natural rights were officially recognized and deemed inalienable by the Constitution, allowing liberty, self-rule and free markets to flourish.

Over the course of our history, though, the Constitution has seen some rough spots. Presidencies such as Lincoln’s, FDR’s, the younger Bush’s, and Obama’s have trampled over our nation’s legal and philosophical foundation with zeal. Sometimes we need a reminder that the morality and virtuous free environment recognized and provided for by the Constitution is what’s best for whatever ails us. Can it put an end to what seem like never-ending wars? Yes. Can it heal our sickened economy? Yes. Can it kill the numerous and creative ways being used to invade our privacy? Yes. The Constitution can be - or will lead us to - the answers for all of today’s problems.

Most people have forgotten that. To them the Constitution has become an afterthought, maybe even an antiquity or novelty. Some even forget that it exists.

Enter “Constitution and Citizenship Day”.

Introduced as an amendment to an appropriations bill in 2004, Public Law 108-447 requires that any public school that receives federal funding educate its students on the Constitution on September 17 of every year in observance of its signing in 1787. It’s interesting to note that the law was penned by none other than the since-deceased Democratic Senator Robert Byrd who was never really known to be a Constitution enthusiast and it should also be noted that the Constitution in proper practice should prohibit the federal government from funding and dictating to public schools. But, nonetheless, it is the law and even without its edict it’s good citizenship to revisit and be reeducated about the document on its birthday. It’s a day just as important to America as July 4.

On the evening of September 17 make it a point to ask your children or grandchildren if they received an education about the Constitution over the course of the school day. It’s not necessarily guaranteed that they will. An obscure law like this can be easily overlooked and, as history shows, even if it were followed our schools aren’t necessarily the best for civics (some teachers are more versed in and focused on other subjects while others are overburdened teaching to meaningless standardized tests).

Plus, although many modern parents may not agree, it’s your responsibility to educate your kids as much it is the school’s; education shouldn’t end when the school bell rings. Take the time to discuss the Constitution with them. It doesn’t have to be a dry subject. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have shown that teaching about government can be exciting and character-building. Start young and they’ll better understand their duties as citizens and, as they age, what their government can and cannot do to and for them.

If your understanding of the Constitution is a little limited itself take the time to make it a shared learning experience with your family. There is plenty of great material on the web and among the very best is the John Birch Society’s “Overview of America” video which can be watched in its entirety on YouTube. You’ll come away enlightened.

Regardless of your knowledge, it’s imperative that you take the time to reacquaint yourself and your children with the Constitution. If more people did, it’s guaranteed that America would be in a better place than it is now during these trying times. Sometimes, the old fashioned ways are the best ways…our Founding Fathers were really onto something.

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