Federal Law Requires Schools and
Government Agencies to Teach US Constitution

With the President’s signature on December 8, 2004, the Consolidated Appropriations Bill was signed and became Public Law 108-447. It funds a major portion of the federal government for another year. Hidden deep inside the 3,000 page document is the following verbiage inserted by the suggestion of a senator’s education policy advisor:

SEC. 111. (a) The head of each Federal agency or department shall-
   (1) provide each new employee of the agency or department with educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution as part of the orientation materials provided to the new employee; and
   (2) provide educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution to each employee of the agency or department on September 17 of each year.
   (b) Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.

It also provided that the designation of September 17th be changed from Citizenship Day to “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.”

Even though it must be admitted that the federal budget as passed is filled with items the federal government should not be involved in, still it requires every school and government entity which receives federal money to instigate a program to teach the Constitution. It must also be admitted that, if left to those in charge, the “teaching” will probably be greatly lacking in quality and accuracy with regards to the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. Therefore the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) is assuming a pro-active position in the effort and we are determined to supply quality materials for those to use who will be implementing this requirement in the law.

Why Schools should Implement Constitution Day and Constitution Week

  • As George Washington said, “A primary object…should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing…than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”

  • The Congress, by joint resolution designated September 17th as “Citizenship Day” and the week beginning September 17th and ending September 23rd of each year as “Constitution Week”

  • President George W. Bush has proclaimed September 17th as Citizenship Day, and September 17th through September 23rd as Constitution Week. He said, “I encourage Federal, State, and local officials, as well as leaders of civic, social, and educational organizations, to conduct ceremonies and programs that celebrate our Constitution and reaffirm our rights and obligations as citizens of our great Nation.”

Our Centerpiece of Instruction – A More Perfect Union Feature Film

Perhaps like you, I have viewed this video many times and I never tire of seeing it again. Each time I do, I learn something new. It seems to present all aspects of the making of the Constitution and does it in a way which is the modern-day attention grabber – video.

In 1787, America was in crisis. Eleven years had elapsed since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and we were still not really free. England waged a new war of unfair trade and tariffs. Bickering and jealousy fractured the once United States.

But a handful of brilliant men, James Madison, George Washington , and Benjamin Franklin, lead a political battle to create a new form of government, one that would establish the standard of self-government to the world.

A More Perfect Union: America Becomes A Nation is the first comprehensive recreation of those stirring, heated debates during the sweltering summer of 1787. Filmed on location at Independence Hall, Williamsburg, Virginia, and other historical sites, it dramatically chronicles how America became a nation and those underlying principles that guard our freedoms today.

Released in 1990, this feature film dramatization of the events of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, entitled A More Perfect Union, was shown initially on PBS nationwide and was viewed by almost two-and-a-half million people. It has received several gold and silver awards in national and international film festivals, including a prestigious Emmy Award presented by the Rocky Mountain Region.

A More Perfect Union makes us witnesses to the Constitutional Convention - that long, hot summer of struggle to create a new form of free government. It is exciting drama of the best kind - fact, rather than fiction. "It brings the history books to life," writes one reviewer. "Dramatic, moving, and visually handsome," says another. Officially recognized by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, who cited the film as being "of exceptional merit." A perfect teaching tool!

Teacher Resource Packets for Schools

The National Center for Constitutional Studies has prepared an educational package to enable schools to implement Constitution Day activities this coming September during Constitution Week. The regular price of these packets is $39.95, but for this special project, in order to get these materials into the schools, several businesses and individuals have agreed to make the packets going to educational institutions available at $10.00 each. We are inviting all of our supporters to donate these Constitution Day educational packages directly to teachers, local schools, or donate additional funds to the NCCS, so we can make them available to schools through other established channels. We have plans to place 10-20,000 of these packets into the public schools by August of this year, but we need your help.

This educational packet contains:

  • A More Perfect Union – America Becomes a Nation (Two-hour movie dramatizing the events of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Also divided into teaching segments for supplementary classroom use.)

  • A Teacher’s Guide, which provides background information and perspectives, designed to help teachers with classroom discussions and other learning activities related to A More Perfect Union.

  • A copy of the Constitution of the United States.

Downloadable resources available for implementing Constitution Day in schools:

  • A Citizenship Day and Constitution Week Proclamation by President George W. Bush.

  • A Citizenship Day and Constitution Week Proclamation to be completed by students.

  • A Teacher’s Guide, which provides background information and perspectives, designed to help teachers with classroom discussions and other learning activities related to A More Perfect Union.

  • A historical overview of events related to the Constitution.

  • Questions for class discussion and quiz.

  • Hand motions for memorizing the Preamble to the United States Constitution.

Last month’s newsletter outlined what a number of cities and towns in the state of Arizona did for Constitution Week last September. Perhaps this year, committees from cities, towns, organizations, businesses, etc. could make sure that all of the schools in their areas have Constitution Week Packets, plus enough Pocket Constitutions so that each student could have one. One of the suggested activities in the packet asks the teacher to have each student sign the back of the Pocket Constitution acknowledging that he/she will read it and then challenge ten more people to read the Constitution. If you have a child or grandchild going to school, make sure their teacher gets these materials.

Rewards of Teaching the Constitution

Here is a sampling of comments made by seniors in an Arizona High School who were given this assignment and returned to make their reports:

"I was amazed how much people don't know about the Constitution."

"My mother invited some friends over to help decorate our home for Christmas and I took advantage of the opportunity to talk to them about the Constitution. They were so interested that it completely diverted their attention for quite a while. It was fun to teach them and they seemed quite interested, coming from a person as young as I was!"

"At first my dad didn't believe anything I said, but as we continued to discuss the various points I had prepared, he seemed to warm up to them and I feel he gained a greater respect for the Constitution and for what we are learning in this school."

"My brother is going to law school. We had a great discussion and he told me that he never learned this stuff even in law school."

"We had a lot of people over for Thanksgiving and I talked to several of my aunts and uncles while were all sitting around. Some of them were really interested and some weren't, but it was thrilling to be able to talk intelligently about current events. They didn't know how really off base our government has become. They told me they would read the Constitution again and get ten others to do the same."

"I spoke to several about the limitation of powers, and how the Congress had the power to do only about 20 things. I showed them in the Constitution where they are outlined and then pointed out that, for example, many of our country's current activities in the world are unconstitutional. We shouldn't be letting the president do a lot of things he is doing without proper authority."

"I taught my grandpa about the danger of entangling alliances and how the Constitution does not give authority for giving away huge amounts of taxpayer money in foreign aid to other countries and does not authorize being involved in the United Nations to the extent we are. He agreed with me and was thrilled I was learning about this."

"We discussed the Electoral College and how the Founders set up our system to avoid the very problems with electing a president that we saw in the Bush-Gore election. She was amazed the Constitution had answers to such problems."

"I discussed the real meaning of the First Amendment and how the Founders' intent was to prevent the federal government from establishing a state religion and that it no way was to prevent the states or local cities or school boards from encouraging religious instruction in the schools."

"I read some of the Founders' quotes to my grandparents about the real meaning of the Second Amendment - the right to keep and bear arms - and how it was meant to keep citizens armed and ready for duty if called upon."

One student, who is taking concurrent college classes reported: "When we discuss things in our college classes, most people just express an opinion from what they have heard. They have no real basis for a good discussion. Sometimes they ask me how I know so much about things, since I am the only one who seems to be able to add substantive reasoning to our discussion."

And so it continued for about three hours of class time. There is nothing more thrilling to a teacher than to hear these young students give these reports. It really is the kind of reward every teacher seeks.

A Little Teaser for April

Here’s a few constitution history facts Americans should know about the month of April. How many do you know?

  • April 1, 1789 - The House of Representatives convened with 59 elected Representatives present.

  • April 6, 1789 - The Senate was organized and a joint session of both houses convened—a significant day marking the first official meeting of the representatives of the first free nation in modern times. The order of business on that day was to see who would be President. The results came as no surprise. George Washington was elected unanimously as President (69 electoral votes, meaning each elector voted for Washington as one of his two votes cast), and John Adams came in next highest with 34 votes, so he became Vice President.

  • April 15, 1789 - The Gazette or Annals of Congress began its publication. Today it is called the Congressional Record.

  • April 30, 1789 - George Washington was inaugurated in the Senate Chamber of Federal Hall in New York City. His estate was still suffering severely from the ravages of the Revolutionary War and his own eight-year absence. He therefore had to borrow money to attend his own inaugural.

"Let [the Constitution] be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation." (Abraham Lincoln, "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions", January 27, 1838)

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.