The Constitution of the United States is one of the most important documents in American history, and it is defended ferociously by many American citizens.
For many people, the challenge of the Constitution is in the interpretation, and schools have the task of teaching students various perspectives without biasing them one way or being so vague that they essentially teach them nothing.
Despite some strong opinions on the meaning of the Constitution, there are some concepts that schools should attempt to convey. With that in mind, here are five things that students should know about the Constitution.
Needs to be studied
If students are going to understand the Constitution, they will need to study the document and read a lot of different areas of historical research and expert analysis. This is obviously a major task for teachers, particularly since many students just want them to give out the answer so that they can move on. However, the Constitution is not an easy read, and there is not a singular interpretation that is agreed-upon universally.
A little vague
What students should understand from studying the Constitution is that it is rather vague in some areas. This may be frustrating for some, but it should be a good lesson in how documents of this type are written. Students should strive to understand why a group of people would put down concepts without a lot of details. In addition, they should realize that certain groups in America have taken it upon themselves to specifically define certain parts of the Constitution, even if their interpretation is self-serving and is not necessarily what the Founding Fathers intended.
A different time
The Constitution is an old document, and this is also something that students should understand. When this document was written, it was a very different time. This may be extremely difficult to grasp since human beings are really only able to put their own time in context. What students should understand is that they should approach the document with a certain amount of humility. It is easy for a citizen to find backing for their own special cause in the words and phrases of the Constitution, but this may in some cases be an abuse of the document since it was written in a different era.
Subject to interpretation
students should also understand the history of the Constitution, and realize that it has been subject to interpretation over time. They should understand that Supreme Court nominations can sometimes carry more weight than any other elected official, simply because those Justices can influence the interpretation of the Constitution for so long. As much as students may be looking for objectivity, they should understand that flawed, biased people have made decisions on the meaning of the Constitution throughout history. Cultural issues impact the Constitution, and the document is subject to the viewpoints of the current generation, regardless of how “objective” people believe themselves to be.
Just a document
Finally, students should understand that the Constitution is just a document. It is a very important document, and it should not be dismissed or disregarded by anyone that lives in America. However, it is not holy, and it is not spiritual. The Constitution was written by people and not by some “higher power.” It is perfectly acceptable for people to defend the principles of the Constitution, but the Founding Fathers were mortal. The Constitution should be studied by students, and hopefully they will understand that certain subjects, like the Constitution, have to be studied for the rest of their lives.