• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Dude, Like, What’s the Constitution, Anyway?

    A third of graduated and rising high school seniors – who will be voting in the 2012 elections – have never studied the U.S. Constitution.

    A recent study by the National Assessment for Educational Progress reported that only 67% of all high school students have spent any time studying the nation’s founding document.  Every four years, the NAEP polls 10,000 students about their knowledge of – or even exposure to – the Constitution.  The percentage of knowledgeable students is continually decreasing and, since 2007, the numbers have fallen another five percentage points from 72%. Maybe this is obvious, but shouldn’t a responsible and informed citizenship be one of the goals of public education?

    Without basic knowledge of this foundational document, these voters will be hard pressed to answer some of the most important political questions in 2012. The next election is going to depend on every voter’s understanding of constitutional authority. For instance, does Obamacare’s individual mandate fall under the commerce clause? Other recent questions – like which branches are involved in the decision to declare war – cannot be answered without a thorough understanding of the Constitution.

    But a basic understanding of the Constitution is useful well beyond just the next election.  The Constitution spells out both the powers and limitations of the federal government.  It seems that it could become rather difficult to secure the blessings of liberty without teaching the next generation how our government is designed to protect these liberties.

    This coming September 17 is Constitution Day.  This federal holiday is set aside to celebrate the day the structure of government in the United States of America was signed into law. This summer – maybe on one of those oppressively hot and humid days when air conditioning is particularly welcome – might just be a good time to brush up on this founding document.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to Dude, Like, What’s the Constitution, Anyway?

    1. Kevin H, college par says:

      Is that a huge surprise? Look at the Vice Presidential candidate from 2010 – do you think she could name any amendment to the constitution besides the 2nd? We have all heard her take on 'historical events' – does it surprise you knowing she came out of our education system?

    2. Rick H. Battle Creek says:

      Kevin H., I didn't realize we had a Vice Presidential Candidate on the ballot during the 2010 election cycle. Must have missed that memo. Your comment shows why we have the cast of clowns that we now have running the White House.

    3. Joe, NYC says:

      @ Kevin H:

      First of all, assumption is the mother of all f**k-ups. Go ahead and assume that people know less than you do. You end up looking like an idiot, welcome to the Chris Matthews/Dan Rather club.

      Second, Palin's "take on 'historical events'" was vindicated by a HISTORY professor: http://www.npr.org/2011/06/06/137011636/how-accur

      BTW, this is from N-P-frickin-R, which is NOT a "right-wing" or "Republican" leaning media outlet, not by a long shot.

      And third, where were you with the outrage when *another* candidate said there were "Fifty… uh…. uh…. seven states"?

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=obama

      846 results – pick your proof.

      Where was your outrage when your Golden Boy made all these idiotic statements? http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/barackobama/a/

      Amazing how snide li'l liberals are sooo ready to smear others with no basis whatsoever, yet refuse to see the screw-ups of their own bunch.

    4. Jill-Maine says:

      Try to remember, we have a prezident that thinks we have 57 states. You can find gaffs associated with everyone. Sarah Palin is actually quite smart and I am starting to hear more and more positive things about her.

      What happened to Sarah was created by a lying, ideological, non- journalistic press and idiots keep regurgitating everything they are spoon fed.

      How about the genius katie Couric who almost destroyed her news organization. Now she gets her own show.

    5. Joe, NYC says:

      Do you think Obama could name all 57 states?

      http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=obama

      P.S. Your statement is an assumption. Mine is backed by video evidence. Don't even try to argue your way out of this one.

    6. Dinah Garrison Fairb says:

      @Kevin

      Yes, I think she could. Although not a favorite of mine, I manage not to go overboard in my criticisms, I think. If you are referring to Paul Revere, you should do a bit of study and listen to more news. She was actually correct. Look it up yourself. And before being so critical you might remember "57 states" and "May 2008." Anyone who is always in the public eye can make a mistake which will be remembered a LONG time.

      I would worry even if our students studied the Constitution in school. Some of the explanations about it from those on the left are a bit…odd.

    7. Wesley W says:

      We don't have to look at the Vice President from 2010 to find someone that doesn't know the Constitution. Look at the President in 2011. Which part of "War Powers" act and the requirement to gain approval from Congress to engage military does the Pretender-in-Chief not understand? Why are leftists, who were oh so vocal about Bush's wholy imagined "violations" of Constitutional requirements, totally silent when the Pretender-in-Chief has totally failed, on numerous occassions, to get Congressional approval for the use of the US military? I seem to remember that even Bush actually did get approval from Congress as is required by the Constitution. What about the laughable socialist "healthcare reform law" that has no basis whatsoever in the Constitution? What about the "free exercise clause" of the 1st Amendment? You know, the clause that actually IS in the Constitution, right after the "establishment clause"? What about the Fifth Amendment protection against having property (salaries and wages) being confiscated for public use (socialist programs that we don't qualify for) without just compensation? And I've yet to see a liberal defend the 10th Amendment. You know, the one that reserves any power or rights not specifically given to the United States Federal government for the States and the people thereof? Further, where were the liberals when the Democratically controlled 111th Congress utterly FAILED to perform its primary Constitutional purpose and didn't pass a budget for the first time in the nation's history? I'd love to see a state by state breakdown of the results from this survey.

    8. jweb says:

      It's that way by design. Washington, Jefferson, Paine, and even Hamilton spoke of the importance of being educated and informed. The dumbing down is by design. The link below is a online book called "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America". It traces the history and agenda of the Department of Ed.

      http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/

    9. Wesley W says:

      Don't we have the President in 2011 for many examples of Constitutional ignorance. Is the president aware of the War Powers clause, at all? Where in the Constitution does the government have the authority to pass an "insurance madate" to individuals? Why does the president's administration point to the preamble as the basis of granted powers? Which part of "equal protection" clause does the president's Justice Department not understand? Under what authority in the Constitution did the administration's Homeland Security department label people "extremists and terrorists", simply for exercising their political speech rights? Many on the left have been very vocal with their criticism of Bush's imagined transgressions. Where are the same people and their criticisms when Obama's administration has actually committed these transgressions?

    10. Renny, Maryland says:

      One of the big reasons to allow 18 year olds to vote was, "if they can fight for our country they should be allowed to vote!!" Well, I disagree with that theory.

      The young men and women going into the military have been TRAINED to fight for our country! I rest my case!!!!

    11. whobodythere, downea says:

      Oh, and Kevin in addition to "brushing up" on the presidential election cycle perhaps you would enjoy a read of National Public Radio's interview with their expert historian (Robert Allison, a professor and historian at Suffolk University,)

      and gain a better understanding of history as well. Me thinks Kevin's comment must be a "plant" to verify the accuracy of Leslie Grimard's observations….I mean, could there be any more compelling "proof in the pudding" than Kevin's comment?

    12. Pingback: Oye, broder, ¿qué cosa es eso de la Constitución? | Heritage Libertad

    13. Pingback: The New Obamacare Mandates | The Foundry

    14. Ole Prof, Dallas says:

      Regrettably, those who generally teach "civics" (coaches, teaching in a secondary field in many cases)either know only a little more than their students or are themselves misinformed about the Constitution. We're in real trouble, folks!

    15. Pingback: Morning Bell: Americans Will Suffer Under New Obamacare Mandates « The perpetual view's Blog

    16. Kevin H, college par says:

      No, you are all wrong. The presidential elections were in 2010 and there are 57 states. I'm actually quite smart, like Sarah Palin.

    17. Bobbie says:

      For all those who failed to educate the simple but brilliance of the American Constitution, are obviously intimidated by the dignity of a free people that do understand, respect and become accustomed to it. Where the false interpretors and the like, including the president, conduct themselves without merit to the constitution, but then faithful to take advantage of it at their convenience.

    18. Bobbie says:

      Everyone needs to understand that "we the people" includes all human life in America. The Constitution builds the common dignity of all human life in general.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×