Friday, October 30, 2009

And Your Bill of Rights Is Gone

(Yeah, I know that song quote will be known to, like, three people. Sue me.)

Hey, did you ever wonder what our kids are being taught about the Bill of Rights? And did you ever wonder what that means about how our kids understand state power? Well, wonder no more.

A parent in the Garland, TX school district (it's really weird to me when entities smaller than counties have their own school districts, but whatever) posts this disturbing list of what the Bill of Rights looks like after run through a shredder of a 6th-grade history textbook. It's pretty hilarious and awful at the same time.

The parent concentrates mostly on the severe bastardization of the Second Amendment - "We can get permission to own weapons to protect ourselves" - and he's right that it's probably the worst bastardization of the bunch. I mean, that's not even close to what the amendment says. "Get permission?" Don't you mean that the government has extremely limited - if any - power to regulate gun ownership.

But the Fifth and Tenth are pretty awful, too. The bastardization of the Fifth Amendment completely ignores the due process clause and the whole "public use" clause that leads to eminent domain law. The Tenth Amendment fails to recognize the "or to the people" bit at the end, instead saying that states can do anything that the federal government can't, which of course isn't necessarily true. (They screw up the Third pretty bad too, but who cares about the Third Amendment anyway?). And it hedges the Fourth Amendment in a way that the Amendment itself doesn't by saying that police "usually" need permission to search our homes.

Paging James Loewen...

There seems to be a bit of a pro-government control bias here. Each of these oversimplifications makes it look like the government has more power than the Constitution actually gives it. You don't need permission to own a gun - you always have the right to own a gun, and the government can't regulate that power too much. Government can't take away your property without paying you for it, and government can't throw you in jail unless they hold a fair trial and convict you first, but you'd never know that from reading this summary. The states and the federal government both have to abdicate a good deal of their power to the people, but from the summary of the Tenth Amendment, you'd never know that either.

Is it any wonder why violations of civil liberties are so often overlooked by most Americans? They're taught from an early age that government has far more power than it actually should have. Say the government violates someone's due process rights in a terrorism case. How many people who learned the Bill of Rights from this summary are going to know that the government is doing something unconstitutional? And how many are going to call the government on it instead of simply saying "oh, they're trying to keep us safe, carry on"?

It behooves us to teach our children the actual Constitution, no matter how difficult or awkward we might find it to be. People can have different interpretations of it, and that's okay... but we ought to at least all start from the same facts, right?

4 comments:

lsmsrbls said...

wtf? I'm not a big fan of rote memorization, but I think that kids at least should know the bill of rights (and what the different major schools of thought are on interpretation of the ones that are debated-just knowing the words isn't enough).

Do they not READ the constitution in school anymore? And if not, then why the hell not? These are 6th graders, not toddlers. This really pisses me off.

truthbeforedishonor said...

I'm gonna have to write an article on this tonight or tomorrow (and procrastinators call me a bad procrastinator). And I AM a big fan of rote memory. When I was home-schooling my daughter, she was able to rattle off the first 30 Presidents when she was in 3rd grade. She also knew all 50 (not 60, Barack) states and could locate them all on a map at that age. And she knew about 40 state capitals. And she had a firm grasp on addition and multiplication tables. All on rote memory.

Back in the day, rote memory was used heavily. It was being phased out and was nearly gone when I went to school. It's a shame.

I wanted to put more linkage in but I'll leave it at two links and hope I don't get "filtrated" as happyfeet would say.

Mike said...

So I guess you'll have to go... and ban this school.

Miguel said...

Government schools have a pro-government bias?

Who'da thunk it?