Do You Know Your Rights?

Sunday, September 17, was Constitution Day, celebrating the adoption of the United States Constitution by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. The U. S. Constitution was ratified in 1788 and took effect in 1789.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania recently published a a survey documenting the knowledge, or perhaps it would be better to say the lack of knowledge, of basic civil rights granted to U. S. citizens by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The results, as you might imagine, are dismal and reinforce the need for improved education in civics in our schools.

The APPC asked “What are the specific rights guaranteed by the Constitution?” It was an open-ended question. APPC reports the percentage of respondents who were able to identify the following rights without prompting, in the order in which they appear in the First Amendment:

Freedom of religion = 15%

Freedom of speech = 48%

Freedom of the press = 14%

Right of assembly = 10%

Right to petition the government = 3%

The APPC also reported on the percentage of respondents who were able to name the three branches of government:

Know all three = 26%

Know two = 13%

Know one = 27%

Know none = 33%

When exiting the Convention, the delegates were met by a crowd of citizens anxious to hear the results of the proceedings, which had taken place in secrecy. A Mrs. Powel asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

It goes without saying that, if we hope to keep this republic, the citizenry need to be knowledgeable about their civic rights and duties. Half the work of any government hoping to usurp the rights of its citizens is done if those citizens don’t know what their rights are in the first place. Education is the foundation of freedom for, as Frederick Douglass said, “The key to freedom is knowing what it means to be a slave.”

In order to acquire a better understanding of the U. S. Constitution for yourself and your children, you can visit the Civics Renewal Network, “a consortium of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations committed to strengthening civic life in the U.S. by increasing the quality of civics education in our nation’s schools and by improving accessibility to high-quality, no-cost learning materials.” Teachers, public, private, and homeschooling, can exploit various resources for teaching civics. As parents, whether homeschooling or not, it’s our responsibility to ensure our children an education in civics, for their sake and for the sake of future generations of Americans.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.



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