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New High School Curriculum Will Focus on Founding Fathers, Constitution ^ | May 19, 2003 | Steve Brown

Posted on 05/23/2003 4:22:55 PM PDT by Remedy

On a mission to develop in young Americans what President Ronald Reagan called "an informed patriotism," the non-profit, Alexandria, Va.-based Bill of Rights Institute is slated to unveil this fall a new curriculum for high school students emphasizing the principles of the Constitution.

The institute, established in 1999, aims to educate high school students and teachers about our country's founding principles through programs that explore what the nation's first leaders said, what their documents communicated and how these ideas affect our daily lives and shape our society, according to Victoria Hughes, institute president.

"We believe that informed patriotism depends upon the knowledge of our country's founding principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights," Hughes told

This idea is not new, Hughes said, quoting James Madison, "the father of the Constitution," who over 200 years ago said: "It is universally admitted that a well instructed people alone can be permanently free."

Hughes also cited the recent comments of David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of President John Adams. McCullough lamented that "our national amnesia" about history represents "a threat to liberty."

"So we go from James Madison all the way up through David McCullough basically delivering the same message that without the knowledge of who we are as a people and what we stand for, we are creating a situation where our liberty could be in jeopardy. Our freedom, our strength as a country is threatened by this lack of knowledge," Hughes said.

She added that the Bill of Rights Institute focuses on high school students and teachers because "unfortunately, that is the last time most Americans study about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

The institute provides American history, government and civics teachers with instructional materials such as videos and sample teaching plans to supplement the textbooks, which Hughes said, "tend to be thin gruel" these days. She recalled one textbook that "spent 33 lines on George Washington and 10 pages on Bill Clinton."

The newest curriculum product, "Citizenship and Character: Exploring Civic Values From the Founding to Today," scheduled for release in August, "will look at American civic values that are embedded in our Constitution and that have been lived by the founders and other great Americans in our history," Hughes said.

Great interest has already been shown for the new curriculum, Hughes said, and a free sample lesson from it is available at the institute website. Hughes pointed out that 16,000 teachers have chosen material from the institute to incorporate in their teaching programs.

The Bill of Rights Institute also provides teacher training.

"Unfortunately, many teachers themselves do not have this knowledge because in college, they majored in social studies, which means they spent very little time focused on the founding period," Hughes said.

The institute holds constitutional seminars for teachers nationwide throughout the year. Thus far, more than 2,000 have attended, she said.

"We also hold a summer institute for teachers at George Mason University in Virginia. It's a week-long graduate-level course for teachers who seek more in-depth knowledge," according to Hughes.

The institute has just begun collaborating with an IMAX producer on a film called We the People to debut at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on the National Mall on July 4, 2004.

"It will be a film that celebrates the history of freedom from the founding to today," Hughes said, adding that it will be available to the other 150 IMAX theaters around the country as well. "We think this will be a great field trip opportunity for teachers to bring their classes to."

She also revealed that the institute has just received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Bush's "We the People" initiative to develop a curriculum entitled "The Founders and the Constitution: A Teacher's Guide."

This 24-unit curriculum focuses on the individual contributions of the Founding Fathers and will be accompanied by a classroom poster series, interactive website and a monthly e-mail newsletter.

"We are going to be focusing on their positive contributions to American constitutional government - something unique that has not been done in quite a while," Hughes said. The discussion of who did or did not have slaves or illegitimate children "has been done and overdone," she added.

The curriculum dealing with the Founders and the Constitution is scheduled for release in 2005.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: constitution; founders; foundingfathers; framers; gmu; historyeducation; jamesmadison; neh

  1. ED : Administration Cites Recent Surveys Showing Lack Of Basic Knowledge Of U.S. History
  2. ED : Senate Panel Hears that Ignorance of U.S. History Poses Major Security Threat
  3. CULTURE : SYMPOSIUM Q: Is Multiculturalism a Threat to the National Security of the United States?


Bill of Rights in the News Activity: "To Keep and Bear Arms..."

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit left standing an earlier ruling that upheld the constitutionality of California’s Assault Weapons Control Act and refused to recognize an individual—rather than a collective—constitutional right to bear arms. There are now two circuits in conflict over the interpretation of the Second Amendment (the Ninth and the Fifth). What will the Supreme Court have to say? To what extent can the government regulate guns? Who has the right to keep and bear arms?

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Discussion Questions

  1. Which constitutional amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms?
    The Second Amendment, which reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
  2. Reread the language of the Amendment.

    1. Whose right is protected?
      Students may determine any or all of the following:

    1. Are there any limits on the right?
      Answers will vary. Some students may argue that the "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" is stated as a fundamental right that should not be infringed by the government. Others may argue that the language "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" limits the right, whether individual or collective, to the purpose of self-defense.

  1. With which of the statements are you most likely to agree and why?

    1. "But the simple truth – born of experience – is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people." –Judge Alex Kozinski, 9th Circuit, dissenting, May 2003.
    2. "I believe it is clear that the Constitution protects the private ownership of firearms for lawful purposes." –Attorney General John Ashcroft, May 2001.
    3. "The right to keep and bear arms is in no way absolute; it is subject to reasonable restrictions…" –Judge Harry Pregerson, 9th Circuit, dissenting, May 2003.
    4. "[T]he Second Amendment right to ‘bear arms' guarantees the right of the people to maintain effective state militias, but does not provide any type of individual right to own or possess weapons."." –Judge Stephen Reinhardt, 9th Circuit, majority opinion, December 2002.

    Answers will vary.

  2. You are a member of the Supreme Court. The ruling in the Ninth Circuit is appealed.

    1. Do you vote to grant cert (hear the arguments) in the case next term? Explain.
      Answers will vary, but students should recognize that (1) the case involves a constitutional issue and (2) the ruling conflicts with that of another Circuit. The Court may want to rule on the narrow facts of the case or provide guidance to the lower courts about how to interpret the language of the Second Amendment.
    2. As a Justice, what is your interpretation of the Second Amendment? How are you likely to vote in the case? Explain.
      Answers will vary.


Three Schools of Thought. Currently, there are three interpretations of the Second Amendment: Traditional Individual Right (individual has right for any valid purpose; limited government regulation), Limited Individual Right (individual has right, but only reasonable, military-related purposes), and Collective Right (protects right of the people to have state militia, no individual right). Have students investigate the three theories and analyze the pros and cons of each. Have students write a position paper answering the question, which do you think is most compelling and why?

Not Since 1939. The Supreme Court has not ruled in a Second Amendment case since U.S. v. Miller in 1939. Generally, constitutional scholars agree that the case gives limited guidance in interpreting the Second Amendment. Have students research the case and write a short case summary that includes the facts, issue, holding, and reasoning behind the decision of the Court. Do they think the Court would rule the same way today? Why or why not? Students can locate the opinion online at:

To Ban or Not to Ban. Democrats in the Senate plan to introduce legislation this week that will extend a 1994 ban on semiautomatic assault weapons. The Administration supports the move, despite arguments from gun rights advocates that such legislation does little to deter violent crime. Reflecting on the various interpretations of the Second Amendment, students might read and discuss Eric Lichtblau’s "Irking the N.R.A., Bush Supports Ban on Assault Weapons." New York Times. 8 May 2003. Available online at: or James G. Lakely’s "Bush, NRA at odds on weapons ban." Washington Times, 9 May 2003. Available online at:

1 posted on 05/23/2003 4:22:55 PM PDT by Remedy
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To: Remedy

It's long overdue.
2 posted on 05/23/2003 4:28:31 PM PDT by SamiGirl
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Only half would vote for Constitution
3 posted on 05/23/2003 4:30:13 PM PDT by Remedy
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To: Remedy; Alamo-Girl; editor-surveyor; Commander8; Gal.5:1; fortheDeclaration
along with subjects of equal value,....



4 posted on 05/23/2003 4:32:09 PM PDT by maestro
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To: TxBec; 2Jedismom; Carry_Okie; xsmommy; swheats
5 posted on 05/23/2003 4:33:25 PM PDT by homeschool mama
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To: Remedy
quoting James Madison, "the father of the Constitution,"

It has become more important for high school kids to know more about Toni Morrison than James Madison.

6 posted on 05/23/2003 4:38:08 PM PDT by Drew68
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To: maestro
Government education has clearly failed. We must guarantee the right of families to home school or send their kids to private schools and help them with tax credits. January 31 & February 2, 2000 Statement of HON. RON PAUL OF TEXAS
7 posted on 05/23/2003 4:46:06 PM PDT by Remedy
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To: Remedy; maestro
I can see this being used in Christian Schools and by homeschoolers, but I won't hold my breath on it seeing the light of day in government schools where Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Gloria Steinem, Saccho and Vanzetti and Margaret Sanger are considered more important than George Washington, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, Nathan Hale, Benjamin Franklin, John and Paul Adams and James Madison.
8 posted on 05/23/2003 4:49:11 PM PDT by Commander8 (Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? Galatians 4:16)
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To: Remedy
...for my American Government class.
9 posted on 05/23/2003 4:51:46 PM PDT by Van Jenerette (Our Republic...If We Can Keep It!)
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To: Commander8

considered more important than George Washington, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, Nathan Hale, Benjamin Franklin, John and Paul Adams and James Madison AND THE TOP FOUR Authors Most Frequently Cited By The Founders Of The United States

10 posted on 05/23/2003 4:54:37 PM PDT by Remedy
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To: Remedy; A Navy Vet; Jim Robinson; Trueblackman; Eastbound; BlackbirdSST; dcwusmc; Neil E. Wright
Thank you!

For the VetsCor Board of Directors, this is one of those things on our long term goals agenda.

11 posted on 05/23/2003 4:54:59 PM PDT by Alas Babylon!
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To: Remedy
Government education has clearly failed.

Right,.....and now they want the NEA to teach
'The Founding Father's No-Truth-Ethics' coarses.

This is a part of the No Child Left Behind (Internationalist scam).


12 posted on 05/23/2003 4:57:08 PM PDT by maestro
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To: Remedy
"Government education has clearly failed."

Truth be known, it succeeded in a way that many will have difficulty believing or even understanding. Corrupt the language and you lack the words to correctly define and understand the full measure of freedom and liberty. If you can't define it, you can't defend it.

13 posted on 05/23/2003 5:55:34 PM PDT by Eastbound
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To: maestro
Thanks for the heads up!
14 posted on 05/23/2003 7:25:11 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: SamiGirl
Mega-dittoes and Amen!
15 posted on 05/23/2003 10:36:07 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Remedy
16 posted on 05/24/2003 11:56:04 AM PDT by (“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6)
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No Child Left Behind, No Child Left to an Abortionist, No Child Left in a dumpster….

Comprehensive sanctity of life before birth education in ALL CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS from K-12 is THE MISSING KEY OF THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT should be INCLUDED!

17 posted on 05/24/2003 3:06:19 PM PDT by Remedy
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