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