Government & Civics

2011-2012

 
 

Secondary schools need to teach about the framing and history of the United States Constitution to continue our democracy.  Students in government class consider and decide over conflicting American views on the Constitution.  Several areas of importance critical to continuing our American experiment arise through in-depth study of the Constitution:  origins, the tradition of loyal opposition, and a mechanism of compromise, voter participation, and popular sovereignty.  Since our conception there have been vigorous debates as to what the delegates of the Convention meant by creating this Federal legal instrument.  Was the Constitution only to support American Liberalism?  Or was it to consolidate wealth and power for control over the people?  Was it a combination, or neither?  When studying the Bill of Rights, pupils see the intellectual debate that nurtured the heritage of the tradition of loyal opposition, the debate between anti-federalist and federalists.  By writing down their disagreements about the merits of the proposed Constitution, these framers established a mechanism for conflict resolution.  Students learn from this that while we can disagree politically, we do so without violence, and that governments transition without a coup d’état.  Further study of the Constitution shows students the process for creating a peaceful democracy.


After the Revolution, it was unclear if America would stay together with such diverse geographical, economic, and cultural differences and interests.  However, our Constitution produced a peaceful resolution to religious and political conflicts.  Many of the Convention delegates in Philadelphia were from an aristocratic affluent class; others were farmers who had come back from war in debt.  Both wanted change.  The Constitution would solve the framers’ and farmers’ conflict and keep us united.  The Constitution was able to bring all levels of society under one legal umbrella. Therefore, students learn how our Constitution holds us together over time, even when conflicting issues arise.


America’s Constitution and civic life empowers students to see that voting and participation are important.  Madison wanted to stop powerful interests or inappropriate factions from controlling government.  His vision was to compose a Constitution that would ensure that the majority can never reign over the few, nor that the few reign over the many.  Persuaded by Patrick Henry, he protected individuals further by amending the Constitution with the Bill of Rights.  Historian Garry Wills quoted Madison’s support for liberty with: “Amendments, if pursued with proper moderation…may serve the double purpose of…providing additional safeguards in favor of liberty.”  Students need to see that individual protections, participation, and voting are pivotal to the foundation of our Constitution.  Consequently, if young American sovereigns know that these Constitutional protections exist they might continually participate in American Democracy.  Learning American issues on these topics helps students of diverse economic and social backgrounds face everyday problems with their families, and motivate them to become active participants.  America was created for a better world in the hands of the people, for the people, and by the people.


The government that governs best, is a government that has a citizenry that is enlightened, understands natural law, equality, inalienable rights and Aristotle’s virtue of participation.  American students must know our history, Constitution, political culture, the tradition of loyal opposition, compromise, popular sovereignty, and American exceptionalism to maintain the United States of America.  All high school learners need to gain knowledge of the encompassing multifaceted American Constitution and society to ensure and continue the best government that the world has invented in response to old world tyranny.

 

About the course

The Liberty Tree