Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Teaching the Bill of Rights

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute's next semi-annual educational seminar will be on the subject of “The Bill of Rights: Charter of Freedom. The Seminar includes presentations by Tony Williams, Williamsburg Author and Teacher, and David J. Bobb, Director of the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies (Hillsdale College), on the topics of English Traditions, Colonial Charters, and State Constitutions; Madison-Jefferson Correspondence about a Bill of Rights; and Madison's June 8, 1789 Speech & Prudential Statesmanship.  The seminar is primarily for Virginia middle and high school U.S. Government, U.S. History and Social Studies teachers, and will be held Friday morning, February 15th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Prospect Hill near Charlottesville.  A complementary luncheon is included.  There is no cost for teachers to attend.  For an invitation contact jody@wjmi.org.

The President of the Texas State Bar Association recently wrote, “We hear a lot of talk these days about the U.S. Constitution and how important it is to protecting our liberties. But surveys continue to show a disturbing trend of many Americans not understanding the Constitution and its relevance to our lives today….

For starters, just imagine life without the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights guarantees some of our most precious liberties, including freedom of religion, speech, and press, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and private property rights. The Constitution created the framework for a strong but limited national government and established the fundamental rights of all U.S. citizens.

...we also should take this time to renew our focus on civics education in our schools and society. Today’s young people soon will be voting, sitting on juries and running for political office, and they must have the civics knowledge to make informed decisions and be engaged citizens. Research has shown that individuals who receive a solid civics education are more likely to be involved in their communities through activities such as volunteering and voting.

In today’s economy, the need for math, reading, writing and science knowledge is obvious, but civics education is an essential part of a comprehensive education. It is also essential to develop informed, effective and responsible citizens. Our future depends on individuals who understand their history and government, have a sense of what it means to be an American, and know their rights and responsibilities as a citizen.

“The better educated our citizens are, the better equipped they will be to preserve the system of government we have,” said retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a longtime civics education advocate.  “And we have to start with the education of our nation’s young people. Knowledge about our government is not handed down through the gene pool. Every generation has to learn it, and we have some work to do.” (Texas Bar Page, 09/11/12). 

The mission of the Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute is “To instill within educators and students of the rising generation a greater understanding of and appreciation for the Founding Fathers and the Founding Documents of the United States of America.”  We encourage all Americans to actively support their local Civics, Government and Social Studies teachers in this great task.

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