Today (well, actually, it's tomorrow, but this is America, after all) is Constitution Day. Thanks to West Virginia's own Robert Byrd, all schools that receive federal funds and all federal agencies had to take time today to learn a little bit about the Constitution. That's right, I said all federal agencies, including public defenders. So we took time this morning to stop representing clients (which requires a slight knowledge of the Constitution) to jaw about the founding document. Somewhat ironic, if you asked me.
As for schools, USA Today, as part of a wide-ranging editorial, criticizes Byrd's law:
Across the USA, educators will dress up as George Washington or Patrick Henry to lead patriotic skits and songs.In an age when the federal government exerts great influence over local schools, I hardly see the harm in making sure that the schools teach a little about the Constitution. The intelligent design thing is a canard - the equivalent would be forcing the teaching of the benefits of a divine right monarchy as a "competing theory" to representative democracy.
This might sound harmless, even beneficial, but not everyone is celebrating.
At Vanderbilt University Law School, professors will observe the day next week by debating whether Byrd's law is constitutional. Compelling speech, says Dean Edward Rubin, tramples on the First Amendment.
You don't have to be a constitutional lawyer to understand why Constitution Day sets a bad precedent. What's next? Congress ordering schools to teach 'intelligent design' instead of evolution? Or the glories of West Virginia on Sen. Byrd's birthday?
There's something about the Constitution Day mandate that seems, well, un-American.
Oh, and, for the record, there were no skits, songs, or costumes in our office this morning. :)