In May of this year the Tea Party became adamant about their members “adopting a school” in order to educate students on the Constitution, “tea party-style.” Apparently there is a “congressional mandate that requires any school receiving federal money to teach students about the Constitution during the week of September 17.” The Tea Party put together kits that included materials from the national Center for Constitutional Studies, founded by the late W. Cleon Skousen, Glenn Beck’s go to historian.
It turns out that the kit contains a pocket Constitution and a fair amount of historical data about the Constitution, albeit mostly only dealing with the first ten amendments and therefore avoiding conversations about all of the 20th Century. However, most of the kit is rather boring, at least for 3rd and 4th graders, as it has too many quizzes and does not address real life applications and more modern day examples, of which the United States is chalk full of.
In an example of bringing the old parchment to life, Walter Dellinger, “a former acting Solicitor General of the United States, Clinton-era White House counsel, and assistant attorney general” spoke to a group of 3rd and 4th graders about the Constitution, but with actual real life examples. He mentioned the case of brother and sister John and Mary Beth Tinker, 15 and 13, “who were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War.” They both eventually brought their student free speech case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1969 and won.
He also spoke about being discriminated against as a fifth grader when he had to leave his classroom every week during religion teachings, because he was the only Catholic in a mostly Protestant school. He pointed out that the Supreme Court eventually found these types of activities unconstitutional.
The moral of this story is that if any group truly wants to have an impact on a child’s education then they should try to reach them by connecting with them personally. Having them memorize or recite random facts about signers of the Constitution or who chaired which committee will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears.