Monday, September 19, 2005

Hurrah for the Red, White and Blue

Last Saturday was Constitution Day. Bet you didn't know that did you? You would if you worked in a school receiving federal funds. We MUST observe Constitution Day. It's the law. Only school was not in session on Saturday so we were allowed to observe it on Friday. I guess it's a movable day, just like Memorial Day and Washington's Birthday.

It seems very ironic to be ordered to teach about a document stressing Freedom of Speech and the rights of the individual at a specific day, on a specific time. All schools teach "The Constitution" but we usually wait till it fits into the scope and sequence of the curriculum. This time of year, when it comes to Social Studies, Columbus is still sailing the ocean blue.

My principal delegated "The Constitution" to me, since I see all the kids and she could assure the Powers that Be that yes, we were properly observing the day, the event and most importantly the law.

Constitutional law is tricky enough to keep legions of lawyers employed. Try explaining it to Spanish speaking 5 year olds who aren't sure what country they live in , much less how it is governed. After discovering to my shock that even some of the 5th graders were none to sure of the name of their country:

I scaled the lesson back to the basics.
"Your classroom has rules, our country (and again, what is the name of our country?) has rules. We call those rules "The constitution". Then I read The Preamble, stopping to interpret every word. 200 years ago language was ever so formal.

Thus we observed the law, in letter if not in spirit. Whether the kids remember any of this is a totally immaterial question. It's another one of those sound bite government quick fixes that is supposed to solve all the education problems and only results in photo opts.


alice, uptown said...

Are you available for Constitutional tutorials for those in elected office? That little boy in the big white house could use one, in language best suited for 5-year-olds for whom English is a second language.

Julie said...

I just read your post to my husband, a tenth grade social studies teacher who had to interrupt his unit on the climate in Africa to teach about the Constitution. Yes, very ironic! And yeah, what Alice said!