'We the People' should remember Constitution Day
Monday, Sept. 17, is Constitution Day. That it is a federal holiday probably comes as a surprise. It doesn’t show up on most calendars and doesn’t halt postal delivery or banking services or create a sales frenzy.
It does, however, trigger a requirement by the Department of Education that universities and schools make students aware of it. That’s just fine by Associate Professor Leigh Ann Wilson who helped put together the history course required of Brandman University students seeking teaching credentials.
Her goal is to have students look at a document that’s 231 years old (the U.S. Constitution was adopted on Sept. 17, 1787) and think about how it’s relevant to their lives and what they do today.
“It’s nice to watch them grow (intellectually) and have that ‘aha’ moment,” said Wilson.
Brandman’s course (HISU 358, U.S. History and Democracy) is specifically designed to meet the teaching credential requirements and the required U.S. Constitution exam.
The emphasis is on the first 15 amendments beginning with the Bill of Rights. Wilson likes to emphasize how each amendment fits with the social history of the time and how that influenced the debates around the amendments and how they’re interpreted now.
“Students have to write a research paper where they focus on a particular amendment or portion of an amendment. So, for example, the right to bear arms has been incredibly controversial. You get the extremes of people defending the right to own a bazooka to people talking about pea shooters,” said Wilson. She wants the students to think and write about why it was included, what was debated, and what the social ramifications were then and now.
“They’ll see how those debates run throughout history. It starts to click that it’s not just about what’s going on in 2018 but what’s been going on for years. They start to see that history is not about facts. It’s a continuous thing,” said Wilson, likening it to pulling a strand from a ball of yarn.
“People get fired up in class. They learn to look at it more objectively than they did before.”
Learning about the Constitution also helps students take pride in what the framers of the Constitution accomplished.
“I think it’s important to remember that although we’ve had amendments, our Constitution is very unusual. It has stayed in place. This country has never said we’re going to scrap this and start over. I think that speaks to the relevance. It truly is a living document. That’s a really important thing for people to know,” said Wilson.
“It’s not like looking a fashion magazine from the ’70s and wondering how people wore those clothes. These discussions are still important. It says a lot about our Constitution and our government that we can adjust and bend but never be completely broken. That’s very unusual. Not many other republics can say that.”
Learn more about Constitution Day here.
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