National Center for Constitutional Studies
|"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?"
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Who Will Speak for the Constitution?
The lead story in a recent issue of Human Events began with these lines:
It is a fact that has been quite apparent for many years that there are few people in government, especially on the federal level, who are conversant enough with the Constitution to even talk intelligently about its provisions, its powers, and its limitations. While there are several possible reasons as to why, we choose to believe that most of them have good intentions but have never seriously studied the document in the tradition of the Founding Fathers and therefore cannot speak with any degree of confidence on how it applies to government today.
It reminds me of an incident that happened recently in our high school. I take all 12th grade students through a course on the Constitution using, as our texts, The Five Thousand Year Leap and The Making of America. After the students become quite conversant with constitutional provisions, I like to invite guest speakers to address the class and have discussions with the students. This time I invited a man who was running for the U. S. House of Representatives. After he gave what I call a “feel good speech” for a few minutes, the students were anxious to ask questions. One student asked, “How many powers are given to a congressman according to the Constitution?” This usually talkative candidate was at a loss for words. For a few seconds of thought he finally said, “I’m really not sure, perhaps four?” The student got up from her seat, picked up her pocket Constitution, went to the front of the class and said to him, “Sir, its all in Article I, Section 8. Congressmen have the power to do approximately 20 kinds of things. Since you’re running for congress, I’m sure you’ll want to study it.” She then handed him the pocket Constitution!
Where do citizens learn about the Constitution?
The Founders would say, and most of us would certainly agree, that one of the best places to learn about the Constitution is in our classrooms at school. The problem is that very few schools now teach the Constitution in any way that the Founders themselves would even recognize it if they were sitting in the class! Everything bedsides the foundational principles is being discussed in today’s social studies classes—political parties, environmental issues, Supreme Court cases, popular and controversial issues of the day, influence of lobbyists, elections, how a bill gets passed, platforms of the major parties, etc. How can young students even begin to discuss these issues without first having a basis of solid political principles upon which to base conclusions?
There is one popular competition program in some high schools which purports to teach students about some of the original ideas of the Founders. I attended a dinner where a group of these students were brought in to show their knowledge of the Constitution. During the question and answer period, these students were asked where in the Constitution is the authority for the federal government to involve itself in the Social Security program. Since it is not included in the itemized powers, their answer was, “The ‘necessary and proper’ clause.” I could tell right then these students had not been school in the Founders’ Constitution, because that was not what the Founders meant by the “necessary and proper” clause.
And so it continues. In the schools it is said that the Constitution is studied, but it is easy to see that its most basic concepts, limitations, and warnings are not taught at all.
Who is teaching the Constitution in the Tradition of the Founding Fathers?
While there are other good organizations teaching elements of the Founders’ freedom formula, the only complete and comprehensive course taught on the Constitution is the one given by NCCS. That seems to be verified by participants who come to our courses. Recently, we have been in Nebraska and Colorado where the reaction to our seminar has been enthusiastic. Comments like the following are common: “Why isn’t this taught in the schools?” or “I have learned more about the Constitution today than I did through all three years of law school” or “I wish I would have twisted the arms of my whole family to attend today” or “I just wish more people would realize how many problems can be solved if we restored the Constitution”.
When the roots and meaning of the Constitution are taught, honest Americans get fire in their bones for the cause of freedom.
The Making of America Seminar
Our one-day Making of America course includes a discussion of where the Founders got there great ideas. We follow Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Washington, and others as they blazed the trail from ancient Israel and the Anglo-Saxons to their own time, discovering with each step another nugget of freedom which was allowed to blossom in America and which produced the first free people in modern time. Did you know, for example:
Once we learn where the Founders got their great ideas and what these ideas mean, we then take a refreshing look at the way they put them into the Constitution to best form our balanced, limited, and divided government so that the rights of the people would be best protected. Participants learn, many for the first time, how nearly every problem in America today can be solved by restoring these successful concepts.
Another thing that happens during nearly every seminar is that the participants begin to realize that the changes and innovations which politicians have made to the Constitution over the years have not improved it. In spite of the arguments of today’s politicians that these changes represent new ideas that must be tried, we show that the Founders already tried most of them and found them to be failures. And so they warned us not to be tempted by them! Of course, if our public officials and those who elect them have not studied the Founders’ story, they would not know the ideas they are proposing had failed long ago.
The Making of America Seminars provides answers to local problems
We were invited to rural north-central Nebraska last month to teach a Making of America seminar. The local people were fighting a battle to preserve their one-room school houses which have served them extremely well for many years. They have been so successful that even many public figures today are graduates of these “Class 1 schools” as they are called. But because state control of them is difficult, the state is seeking to close them and force the children to be bused many miles to much larger district schools. This situation is so distressing to many rural residents that they have even taken their appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court.
Of course, as was pointed out during our seminar, the Founders had a very different approach to education. Their formula for education was three-pronged: locally supported, parent directed, and professionally assisted. By these means, parents would organize any form of local school they wished. There would be no centralized state control over curriculum or teachers. All those decisions would be made locally by parents. Imagine the freedom parents would feel to make sure their children were taught what the parents want, rather than what some curriculum director at the state capital or in Washington, D. C. wants. During our seminar, we had a most interesting discussion about the various options that are now springing up to inject a free market approach into the educational bureaucratic nightmare which is being compounded by more and more federal control over education.
A situation of a different kind is brewing in my own home town of Mesa, Arizona. Mesa is the 40th largest city in the nation, with a population of 450,000 people. When the city charter was written nearly 40 years ago, the authors knew, along with the Founders of our country, that a property tax is a direct tax on the people and is therefore the worse kind to levy on the citizens. It falls into that same category as tax on wealth or income which the Founders warned us against and actually prohibited in the Constitution. They felt that taxes should be indirect, and to a certain degree discretionary, and so approved a sales or excise tax to raise funds for the limited purposes of government. Our Mesa city fathers believed the same thing.
Now comes a campaign to change all that. It is as though a new idea has been developed and, we are told in the campaign for a city property tax, that Mesa will go down the drain if this tax is not approved. Some people are confused, having never studied the use of taxes. But when we teach in our Making of America seminar about direct and indirect taxes and why the Founders were apposed to direct taxes, it clears up their dilemma. When this reasoning is combined with the teaching of the proper role of government which will keep the needs of the city in check, many good people begin to see the wisdom of our city fathers and oppose the proposed city property tax.
It is amazing to me to see the proponents of a city property tax show charts to prove that Mesa has the lowest tax rate on its citizens of all the nations’ largest cities. They say this as though they are apologizing for it. It is as though they are saying we must be like our neighbors with much higher taxes. This argument extends back to ancient Israel who wanted a king so they could be like their neighbors.
In 1776, as we teach in our NCCS seminars, America’s Founders were saying: “Come to America, we have the lowest taxes on citizens and we will protect your property against the confiscatory powers of government.” “Come to America where you will have more of your money to do with what you will.” “Come to America where we will guarantee you more freedom than anywhere else.” Did it work? Miraculously! It attracted the best people in the world. Will it work in Mesa or in any city in America? Yes. Why not launch a campaign to compete for the most freedom? Who would not want this? Let’s adopt freedom as our campaign slogan. Teaching these concepts in our seminars renews people’s hope in freedom.
What group can we teach in your area?
What challenges are you facing in your area? Surely you have friends, neighbors, church groups, clubs or business associations, family, and other acquaintances that would be interested in hearing the story of freedom. Call us for details or go to our website at www.nccs.net and click on “Host a NCCS Seminar.” It is something most people can do to further the cause of freedom. We also look forward to returning to places we have taught before.
Let’s work toward having people all over this land who will speak up for the Constitution!