Exactly one year ago, on Constitution Day, I challenged readers of this blog to test their knowledge of the Constitution with some very basic questions that distressingly few Americans were able to answer correctly. (They included questions like, “Name the 3 branches of Government,” and “What rights are in the First Amendment?”) After speculating about why so many people in our country know so little about a document they claim to revere, I ended by suggesting that the ACLU has an important role to play in ensuring that the Constitution does not become archaic.
The good news is that we are now geared up and taking action to save our Constitution from the dust heap of history.
Starting today, the ACLU is embarking on a mission to educate people, especially the younger generations, about the contents and contemporary relevance of the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU National office has developed Constitution Day, Brought To You By The ACLU, a youth-oriented education program that schools around the country can use to fulfill Congress’ 2004 mandate that all schools receiving federal funds teach something about the Constitution every year on September 17.
Some schools have ignored this obligation; others have used materials that make students yawn. The Constitution Day, Brought To You By The ACLU program takes a fresh approach, based on the belief that learning about the Constitution can be fun, challenging, and personally relevant to each student. We offer a teaching guide with real-life contemporary constitutional dilemmas that students will find intriguing, games and trivia about the Constitution, a mural contest called the Wall of Rights empowering students to win cash prizes for their schools, celebrity sponsors, and a dynamic website that students and teachers are sure to enjoy.
The ACLU is primed to spread understanding of the Constitution’s provisions and its relevance today. We are perfectly situated to demonstrate that the Constitution is just as vigorously contested and just as critically important now as it was at its inception and throughout America’s more than two-century battle for liberty, justice, and equality. After all, for almost a century, the ACLU has been an integral part of these historic struggles, leading iconic victories for civil liberties and civil rights in the courts, the legislatures, and the hearts and minds of the people in America. And, with its 53 affiliates nationwide, the ACLU is a natural messenger for the Constitution in schools and other venues around the country.
So may the learning begin. May our Constitution find new champions. And may Constitution Day have many, many happy returns!
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