On Constitution Day, all schools receiving federal funds are required to teach students about the U.S. Constitution. Some higher-education institutions fulfilled the requirement in unique ways.
While some colleges were handing out pocket-sized Constitutions and holding public readings of the 225 year-old document, the University of California, Berkeley was celebrating the signing of the Constitution with a panel discussion on the topic of “the history, growth, and future of America’s prison-industrial complex.” The title of the event, “The Constitutional Crisis of Imprisonment: Mass Incarceration and the Future of America Democracy,” suggests the direction that planners had decided to steer the conversation. It’s unclear if students emerged from the “discussion” about “the prison-industrial complex” with a rich understanding of the U.S. Constitution.
But, if students at UC Berkeley did somehow manage to leave with some of their constitutional questions still unanswered, they could have stuck around for a second event at UC Berkeley: “Obama, The Tea Party, and the Future of American Politics.” This should come as no surprise, as past Constitution Day events have included political discussions on topics like gay marriage and the constitutionality of the Patriot Act.
UC Berkeley is not alone in campuses that have decided to politicize the occasion. Smith College put on a lecture called “Let’s Start Drama: Bullying and the First Amendment” and Swarthmore College dedicated an entire panel to a discussion about “voter suppression in America.”
Although some colleges preferred to discuss anything but the Constitution on Constitution Day, other universities fully embraced the opportunity to teach students about the historic document. Both James Madison University and Rice University distributed pocket-sized copies of the Constitution to interested students, and, for the third consecutive year, the University of Southern Indiana held a public reading of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many other schools were able to find informative and non-partisan ways to commemorate the historic occasion.
Students who are looking for more information about the Constitution can utilize Heritage’s interactive Guide to the Constitution.
Bronson Stocking is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm