Constitution Day is September 17, 2007. It’s the anniversary of the day in 1787 when 39 men signed their names to the proposed Constitution of the United States of America, to send it off to the Continental Congress, who was asked to send it to specially convened meetings of citizens of the 13 states for ratification. When and if nine of the former colonies ratified it, it would become the document that created a federal government for those nine and any of the other four who joined.
For Texas, the requirement to commemorate the Constitution was changed to “Celebrate Freedom Week” effective 2003. This week is expected to coincide with the week that includes national Veterans Day, November 11. School trustees may change to a different week. (See § 74.33 of the Texas Education Code) Texas does require students to recite a section from the Declaration of Indpendence. (Recitation is highlighted below the fold.)
Knowledge of the Constitution is abysmal, according to most surveys. Students are eager to learn the material, I find, especially when it comes presented in interesting ways, in context of cases that interest the students. The trick is to find those things that make the Constitution interesting, and develop the lesson plans. Some classes will be entertained by Schoolhouse Rock segments; some classes will dive into Supreme Court cases or other serious issues, say the legality of torture of “enemy combatants” or warrantless domestic surveillance. Some classes will like both approaches, on the same day.
Texas teachers have two months to get ready for Celebrate Freedom Week. Constitution Day is just a week away for anyone who wants to do something on September 17.
Sources you should check out:
- My post from last year, featuring links to Gordon Lloyd’s interactive Howard Chandler Christy painting of the delegates to the convention in Philadelphia, and other sources.
- Bill of Rights Institute Constitution Day page — consistently high quality classroom materials.
- University of Texas Constitution Day 2006, interviews with Texas scholars
- Educators’ links from the Constitution Day home page
- Three video clips for intermediate to junior high students, from Richardson, Texas, Independent School District
- Free poster and teaching guide to the U.S. Constitution, for teachers
- Constitution Day 2007 website
- National Constitution Center, Philadelphia
- Charters of Freedom – The Constitution display, National Archives
- Center for Civic Education Constitution Day lesson plans and materials
(a) Instruction during Celebrate Freedom Week. Each social studies class shall include, during Celebrate Freedom Week as provided under Texas Education Code, §29.907, or during another full school week as determined by the board of trustees of a school district, appropriate instruction concerning the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. The study of the Declaration of Independence must include the study of the relationship of the ideas expressed in that document to subsequent American history, including the relationship of its ideas to the rich diversity of our people as a nation of immigrants, the American Revolution, the formulation of the United States Constitution, and the abolitionist movement, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the women’s suffrage movement.
(b) Recitation during Celebrate Freedom Week.
(1) Each school district shall require that, during Celebrate Freedom Week or other week of instruction prescribed under subsection (a) of this section, students in Grades 3-12 study and recite the following text: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
(2) Each school district shall excuse from the recitation a student:
(A) whose parent or guardian submits to the district a written request that the student be excused;
(B) who, as determined by the district, has a conscientious objection to the recitation; or
(C) who is the child of a representative of a foreign government to whom the United States government extends diplomatic immunity.
Source: The provisions of this §74.33 adopted to be effective December 7, 2003, 28 TexReg 10935.