The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the fragility of the United States Constitution. The Prophet Joseph Smith prophesied numerous times that the Constitution would one day “hang by a brittle thread,” and other prophets have made statements to support his prophesies. I believe that Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God, and I can see by current-day events how his prophesies can come true.
Constitutional scholar Rodney K. Smith wrote a series of articles on the subject “The Constitution Hangs by a Brittle Thread” and I found them interesting enough to share some of his thoughts. Last week I reviewed his article with the subheading of “Joseph Smith’s Prophecy and Our Responsibility” about how the Constitution is “hang[ing] by a brittle thread.” I included some statistics showing that most American adults do not know what the Constitution says. His second article, which I will discuss this week, has subheading of “What Can Be Done about It.”
Smith wrote in his second article of “two major fronts” that can be used to attack the lack of knowledge about the Constitution. The first is public education, and the second is education in the home. He tackled the what can be done at the public level in his second article. He wrote, “Public education is critical in the battle to reclaim constitutional literacy.” Those adults who took a civics class in high school and/or college were more literate about the Constitution than those who did not. Therefore, the first step to increasing public knowledge of the Constitution is to require civics education for graduation.
Smith stated that another source of public education can be found in the media and interest groups even though there will likely be bias in them. “For example, 86% of those surveyed knew that the Second Amendment protects the ‘right to bear arms.’” This is likely because “the National Rifle Association and other interest groups have extensively used the media to increase knowledge regarding the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.” Smith said, “Effective media campaigns can enhance constitutional literacy.”
Because the mainstream media (“fake news”) and commentaries in social media are often biased, Smith suggests that Americans go to more accurate sources, such as The National Constitutional Center (NCC), the Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), and the Quill Project (Quill).
… The National Constitutional Center (NCC) … “unites America’s leading scholars from diverse legal and philosophical perspectives to explore the text, history, and meaning of the United States Constitution.” It does so by providing a “nonpartisan tool [that allows] learners of all ages to engage with the text of the Constitution, discover how experts agree and disagree about its history and meaning, and explore[s] arguments on all sides of the constitutional debates at the center of American life.”
The problem with this source is that it relies too much on secondary sources and scholarly interpretations of original documents, often through a scholar’s ideological lens. Nevertheless, for one seeking a variety of viewpoints, NCC is free and easily accessed at https://constitutioncenter.org/.
The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI) can be accessed at https://billofrightsinstitute.org/ and is a better source of accurate constitutional information, because it relies predominantly on primary source material. BRI is regularly used by hundreds of thousands of teachers and presents constitutional materials in three forms: Voices of History, Founding Documents and Resources, and Documents of Freedom. Voices of History provides a free, “digital storehouse featuring the best of [BRI’s] primary source-based lesson plans.”
BRI also offers access to founding documents, correctly reflecting their belief that “secondary sources can help us understand and appreciate what [founding documents] say, but reading them yourself is the best way to understand the purpose of our national government, the liberties we enjoy, and how those liberties affect and shape our society.” Finally, BRI provides a comprehensive digital course, focused on primary sources, written by accomplished teachers. BRI’s fidelity to primary sources makes their free materials a treasure trove of teaching and learning materials….
… The Quill Project [a collaborative effort between Dr. Nicholas Cole of Pembroke College (Oxford) and the Center for Constitutional Studies (Center) at Utah Valley University (UVU)] … can be accessed at no cost at https://www.quillproject.net/quill. [This project] combines … two codes in a masterful way, making it a unique and powerfully nonpartisan means of obtaining reliable constitutional information and education.
The “two codes” referenced above are computer science and the U.S. Constitution. Thomas Friedman explained the importance of these two codes:
… [I]f you want to be an empowered citizen in our democracy – able to not only navigate society and its institutions but also to improve and shape them, and not just be shaped by them – you need to know how the code of the U.S. Constitution works. And if you want to be an empowered and adaptive worker or artist or writer or scientist or teacher – and be able to shape the world around you, and not just be shaped by it – you need to know how computers work and how to shape them….
[T]he Constitution forms the foundational code that gives shape to America and defines our essential liberties – it is the indispensable guide to our lives as productive citizens.
If Friedman and the College Board are correct about the importance of knowing the code of the Constitution – and I believe that they are, then schools should bring back the civics requirement for graduation. The only way to defend, protect, and preserve our Constitution is to educate our citizenry with the information in it. The best way to have an educated citizenry is to teach the people when they are young and in school. The reason leftists are taking over the education system is that they want to indoctrinate our students in socialism before they can learn about the Constitution and the American way of life.
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