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I hope y’all Gentle Readers are aware that Your Humble Blogger yields to no one in admiration for the Constitution of the United States, a magnificent and profound advance in governmental philosophy and practice, and a blueprint that has proven, over two hundred and seventeen—almost two hundred and eighteen, now—years to be the backbone of an astonishingly long reign of peace, prosperity and stability. Well, and I do actually yield to those people who give it the status of Scripture, who feel that it was not just Divinely Inspired but Revealed. That bit of rhetorical hyberbole aside, I feel that an education in this country at any levels must, to be really good and helpful and proper and whatnot, include an explanation of the Constitution, in proper context for whatever level the student is at.

Let me say that again, before I get into the griping which Gentle Readers know, just know is waiting behind the puff-piece introduction: The Constitution is almost unimaginably marvelous, worthy of study, central to the extraordinary success the United States has had, and an important part of an American education. Furthermore, we should celebrate the Constitution as an American achievement—and it is in many ways a uniquely American achievement. Over the last ten years or so, my admiration for the Constitution has grown immensely, as we have seen the House and the Senate play out their appropriate roles, the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial branches tug out their prerogatives, and the dead hand of James Madison keeping everything under control. Can anyone imagine what the rise of the Right in this country would have looked like if we had a system like Italy’s or Israel’s or even Britain’s? Can you imagine what Grover Norquist would have been able to do? Oh, Lord, thank you for James Madison, and thank you for the Constitution. OK? So you know where I’m coming from.

And yet, somehow, it doesn’t make me happy at all to discover this morning (thank you, Best Reader) that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 (118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45 (Section 111)) as implemented by the Department of Education (see the Federal Register, 70(99), p. 29727) reads, in Division J: Other Matters, Title 1: Miscellaneous Provisions and Offsets, Section 111, part (b): Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution. The implementation allows that in years where September 17 falls on Saturday or Sunday, the institutions may hold such programs on the week before or after.

In other words, in order to celebrate the U.S. Constitition, our federal legislature demands that local schools alter their schedules.

Now, I am not arguing that such a law is unconstitutional. I happen to agree with decided doctrine which essentially agrees that once an institution that would not ordinarily fall under federal regulation accepts federal dollars it also accepts a certain amount of federal regulation. The question is not whether such a law should be overturned by the courts. My question is whether the law is a good idea.

Er, no.

I think it would be swell if schools celebrated our Constitution, and Constitution Day is as good a time as any to organize such a celebration. Heck, I would be pleased as proverbial if Left Blogovia decided to celebrate the Constitution tomorrow with a Favorite Five Constitutional Provisions meme. You hear? Atrios? Amanda? Matt? Josh? But there’s a difference between thinking something is a good idea and thinking that mandating that thing is a good idea. We can celebrate our Constitution, we can celebrate our Constitution in schools and libraries (is a public library included in “educational institutions” under the meaning of the act? What about a museum? What about a worker training program?), we can arrange a day to all celebrate it together, and that’s great. But what the hell is it doing in the law?

You know, I suspect if legislators spent more time thinking about the Constitution, studying it, you know, getting a sense of the thing and their place in it, we’d have less of this crap. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell. A fellow might get frustrated by local schools failing at civic education, and try to mandate it. You can pass laws, but you can’t make civic education happen. And I don’t know who introduced this stupidity, and I don’t care if it was a Democrat or a Republican. Even if it was Senator Byrd (and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was, honestly), I hold that whoever it was should be mocked, publicly, for a thousand years. We could make the Public Mocking of the Stupid Legislator part of our Constitution Day festivities. Maybe we should.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


And the winner of Vardibidian's thousand-year mockery is....

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, added an amendment designating September 17 as Constitution Day, mandating the teaching of the Constitution in schools that receive federal funds, as well as federal agencies (CNN)

oh! too bad. a few weeks later and maybe people would accidentally register and show up to vote in an off year.

No, Wayman, I was right, it didn't surprise me.

Incidentally, you can see my contribution to your blogmeme here. You'll have to get through me talking about my drummer woes, but my fave five are in there...


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