Skip to comments.Do You Know What the Constitution Really Says?
Posted on 09/15/2011 9:07:34 AM PDT by Kaslin
When it comes to the U.S. Constitution, there’s good news and bad news. (And then some really good news!)
Good news first: As the political debates have sharpened over the past few years—since the rise of the Tea Party movement—more and more Americans are interested in the Constitution. While academics and some limited political circles have always discussed the Constitution and its meaning, it’s striking to see so many ordinary Americans having these conversations—and embracing the ideals of our Founding Fathers and the Constitution itself.
Now the bad news: while interest in the Constitution is growing, few Americans actually know much about what it says. And that has serious downsides. It means that many Americans don’t really understand the rights the Constitution protects or the powers it grants.
For example, in 2009, Oklahoma tested its high school students on their knowledge of civics—including basic ideas about the U.S. Constitution. They failed miserably. Only 28%knew that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and just 26% identified the Bill of Rights correctly. More than two out of threedid not know that the President heads the executive branch of government and just one in ten correctly identified the length of a Senator’s term. (This is the fruit of school years spent studying social studies, diversity, and world cultures to the neglect of American history and government.)
American adults---including those serving in politics---fare no better when it comes to their knowledge of the Constitution. In early 2011, the Intercollegiate Studies Institutesurveyedadults and college students to assess their civic knowledge. They discovered that ordinary Americans actually scored higher on their knowledge of the Constitution than the elected officials surveyed. For example, fewer than half of the politicians surveyed (46%)“knew that Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war.” Fifty-four percent of ordinary Americans correctly placed the war power in Congress’ hands. The origin of the famous phrase, a “wall of separation" between Church and state, was more frequently misidentified by politicians than by the public: only 15% of politicians knew that the phrase appeared not in the Constitution but in Thomas Jefferson’s letters, while 19% of regular folks did.
So many citizens are unaware not only of the genius at the heart of the American form of governance but also of its specifics. And that’s a dangerous place for our country to be in. Citizens who do not understand their rights---or the limitations of government—can neither defend those rights nor participate meaningfully in the political process. When the Constitutional Convention ended in 1787, someone asked Benjamin Franklinwhether the young country would be a monarchy or a republic. Franklin gave the famous reply, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
His words hold true today. America is a republic---but all of us must work to keep it that way. How? First, by knowing what the Constitution actually says.
How to Save Your Family: Read the Constitution!
That leads me to the really good news….I’m happy to help Hillsdale in spreading the word that on September 15th, in honor of Constitution Day and our founders’ great wisdom, Hillsdale Collegeis offering a fantastic, free, and easy way for every family to become more familiar with our Constitution: a series of short, but powerful, webcasts called “Introduction to the Constitution.” Simply register at
http://constitution.hillsdale.edu/(or, for an address that’s easier to remember you can log onto www.Hillsdale.eduand look for the promotion) and you’re on the road to informed citizenship.
The Constitution is an amazing document! Your children need to understand this great treasure too—so make sure they watch the Hillsdale series with you (once you sign up you can watch each lecture at your leisure). Another great resource for kids is ConstitutionFacts.com where you’ll find games and children’s activities, and free copies of the Constitution (pay only shipping and handling).
Family by family, let’s cherish our Constitution so that we may continue to enjoy the freedoms that flourish because of it.
Whatever 9 lifetime political appointees say it says.
It is a real simple document the problem is too many people over think it
All this Constitution stuff is interesting, but since it hasn’t really been in effect in my lifetime, or for half a decade beforehand, it sounds a little to me like arguing over how much we know about the Magna Carta.
Happy Constitution Week! (Sept 17 - 23)
Happy Constitution Day! (Sept 17)
Perhaps your comment was intended as humor, or even black humor, but there are those of us that take the Constitution very seriously. We have a lot of problems facing us, including the government usurping powers that were never granted to them by the constitution, but saying the constitution "isn't in effect" because of this is false. Anyone can break any law, that doesn't invalidate the law...it simply means that the law breaker must face justice.
Actually it means what FIVE lifetime political appointees say it says.
I wonder how many knew it was the 'supreme law of the land', not for the American People, but for the entity of the federal government, and in specific instances, the States.
Oh, that's right...most people don't.
I can’t say that I remember every last detail in it, but I did read every word of it a while back.
What are the 5 freedoms guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.
I've been asking this for over 6 months. I have yet to find one person who can correctly answer it.
The Republic is DONE.
Your statement is pure Barbara Streisand. I see no evidence of this. There are very few ruling class politicians who respect the constitution.
There are a few 'dems that understand the Constitution, and a few republicans that don't.
I'm also fairly certain that many of the Dems choose to willfully ignore the Constitution and the limits it places on their power. To them, the ends justify the means, and ignoring the Constitution is acceptable if it's for "the greater good," as long as they get to define "the greater good."
Now, as for Republicans, I'm not sure if they understand it, and choose to ignore the limitations laid out in the document, or whether they just don't understand it. Either way, there is very little respect for the constitution from the Republican party at any level.
It's important that the voters of this country wake up and start paying attention to the Constitution. I'm making it my personal goal to hand a copy of the United States Constitution (one of the pocket editions) to every voter in my own precinct, and our local TEA Party and 9-12 groups are filled with people who are all doing the same thing. In my state, Florida, voters swear an oath to protect and defend the constitution. It's on the voter registration form. Here's the oath:
Oath from the Florida Voter Registration Application:BTW, in my area, we also regularly question our local officials on issues of constitutionality when they are spending, or especially when they are requesting some kind of "Federal Grant." When that topic comes up, you can count on someone at the meeting asking the questions, "Commissioner, didn't you swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States as part of your oath of office?" (the answer is yes), followed up by: "Where in the Constitution of the United States does our federal Congress get the authority to tax the people of North Dakota and Michigan to pay for a school (or library, or bus service, or whatever is being discussed) here in Florida?" That second question is usually never actually answered.
Oath: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida, that I am qualified to register as an elector under the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida, and that all information provided in this application is true.
This country is lost if officials at all levels don't start respecting the Constitution, and insisting that the rest of their "political ruling class" friends and "higher ups" abide by it. That won't happen until , the voters of this country start insisting on it and questioning everyone involved when Constitutional limits are ignored.
“We have a lot of problems facing us, including the government usurping powers that were never granted to them by the constitution, but saying the constitution ‘isn’t in effect’ because of this is false”
How else would the Constitution not be in effect? People not following it is the very definition of that. Oh, okay, nothing’s perfect and no law can be followed with absolute and perfect fidelity. But we’re way beyond even a sliding scale between deviations and fidelities. We’re not even close. Our system of government, except in name, wouldn’t even be recognizable to a citizen of 1850 (and not due to amendments), and everyone knows it.
We still talk about it, and still abide by some few of its restrictions and allowances. But we still talk about the Magna Carta, too, which was my point.
“Anyone can break any law, that doesn’t invalidate the law...it simply means that the law breaker must face justice.”
What about when there’s no justice to be faced, because the authorities don’t recognize law as having been broken? What is there to face up to?
It doesn’t say anything, you have to read it.
It’s easy to tell if somebody knows what the Constitution says.
If they agree with me, then they know what it says. If they don’t, then they’re a clueless hack who needs to go back to civics class.
Incidentally, the constitutional requirement that the President be a natural born citizen has not gone over to well with the election of Obama.
We the People blah blah blah...Limited Government..blah blah blah..Life, Liberty...yadda yadda yadda...