“I hope that kids understand that in this country, everything that we do in everyday life is touched upon by the Constitution of the United States,” The late Senator Robert Byrd

There is a Real National Treasure!

When I tell student there really is a national treasure their curiosity is aroused. They immediately think of the movie; National Treasure. When actor Nicholas Cage discovers a treasure of immeasurable value hidden by America’s Founders as security for the new nation it’s easy to forget the movie is fictitious; it’s hard not to feel jubilant when his kerosene laden torch reveals the treasures of civilization in their underground hiding place!

Just like in the movie, the real national treasure it is the work of America’s Founders. Just like in the movie, it was put in place for the security of the new nation. And just like in the movie, its value is immeasurable, so much so that tens of thousands of American have died defending it.

Of course I am talking about the United States Constitution.

The Constitution ushered in a theretofore untried and noble experiment; the creation and organization of a free society. It created a republic with strong but limited government organized to provide Americans the greatest possible freedom, the greatest possible individual liberty, and the greatest possible opportunity to pursue happiness. As the late author and professor Allan Bloom put it, “America tells one story: the unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality.”

But in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, professor  Bloom also points out the heroism of the American Founding and the impact of the Constitution have been viewed with cynicism in recent decades with both international and American educators focusing on the nation’s short comings and failings. As a college professor his observation was that high school students “… arrive at the university ignorant and cynical about our political heritage, lacking the wherewithal to be either inspired by it or seriously critical of it.” One result is citizens with perspectives like that of the Washington Post’s Ezra Kline, whose recent national television interview drew attention when he described the Constitution as old, confusing and arbitrary.

Contrast him to the late Senator Robert Byrd who believed that an understating of the Constitution by all citizens was so vitally important that he helped establish that every student, in every public school, from first grade through college have a lesson on the Constitution each year on Constitution Day!  He stood on the Senate floor and said “I love the Constitution!” He believed the passing on of a Constitutional culture to the next generation was vital to the health of the American Republic! He believed the Constitution was a national treasure.

What do your students think? Do they see the Constitution as an old confusing, arbitrary document or as a national treasure?

Notwithstanding their words, American critics of the Constitution continue to enjoy the liberty it gives them to freely speak against it and many international critics can be comforted that their own government’s constitutions have incorporated at least some of the principles of the United States Constitution. When it comes to the bottom line, people everywhere want to be free!

Posted in Civic Education


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