The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that “knowledge of the Constitution is essential for the welfare of our nation.” September 17th is Constitution Day. This year marks 229 years since the Constitution was signed. Our freedoms are in such danger today because too many Americans have not studied the Constitution and the history of our great nation.
Alexis Zhang at The Daily Signal discusses this problem in an article titled “The Shocking State of Americans’ Civic Illiteracy.” The author writes, “The Framers of our Constitution recognized that a general understanding of the nation’s laws, history, and government was central to the longevity of the republic. The United States is, as Benjamin Franklin described, `a republic, if you can keep it.’
“How is the republic kept? First of all, by an informed citizenry. As Thomas Jefferson once declared, `It is every American’s right and obligation to read and interpret the Constitution for himself.’ …
“If knowledge of the Constitution is essential for the welfare of our nation, then there is cause for great concern.
“Recent survey data reveal a distressing lack of knowledge of our constitutional history. When asked, even given multiple choices, more than 70 percent of college graduates were unable to identify James Madison as the Father of the Constitution. A majority did not know the ratification process for proposed constitutional amendments. Remarkably, 10 percent wrongly identified Judith Sheindlin – better known as the TV personality Judge Judy – as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.”
According to Zhang, few colleges and universities require courses in American history or government. Most of them do not even “require a U.S. history course even of their history majors.”
This “crisis in historical literacy” is particularly troubling because the rising generation will become tomorrow’s leaders. Zhang, however, sees “some positive signs. State policymakers have begun to recognize the crisis in historical literacy for what it really is. In 2015, eight states enacted laws requiring high school students to pass citizenship tests before they could graduate. Students must grasp essential civic and constitutional concepts, such as term lengths and the delineated powers of the three branches of government – the same basic questions that college graduates struggle to answer.”
Even though states are taking steps to strengthen “civic standards in elementary and secondary education,” the institutions of higher learning must accept their “unique responsibility to foster a deeper understanding of our Constitution, laws, and history. Colleges and universities have the singular capacity to offer students rigorous, in-depth instruction in history, political science, and the humanities just as they take their first steps into citizenship and the workforce.”
The simple fact remains that parents and leaders cannot rely on educational systems and institutions to teach civics to rising generation. Parents must assume the task of teaching civics to their children and of accepting their personal responsibility to protect and preserve the Constitution. I suggest that my readers commemorate this Constitution Day by starting a family study group to learn about the Constitution, the laws, and the history of the United States!