The Point: What Constitution?

It’s time for a civics refresh. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

A new study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that Americans are woefully misinformed about basic constitutional provisions. More than half believe that illegal immigrants have absolutely no rights under the Constitution.

Three-quarters of Americans can’t name all three branches of government. And perhaps worst of all, over a third can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment, including freedom of speech, press, or religion.

This doesn’t bode well for public education, which began as a means of producing well-informed citizens. But Christians should be the first to insist on good civic education, because we stand to lose so much freedom.

In his book, “A Free People’s Suicide,” Os Guinness shows how modern views of freedom are incompatible with the views of the American founders, and argues that “the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans.”

He also sketches a plan for good civic education—a plan to implement if our Republic is to last.

 

 

Resources

Americans Are Poorly Informed About Basic Constitutional Provisions
  • Annenberg Public Policy Center | University of Pennsylvania | September 12, 2017

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  • Phoenix1977

    If “We, the People” (which never existed in the first place. It was always: “We, the Elite”) are no longer interested in those freedoms perhaps it’s not that strange to see them disappear? After all, that should be the case if the people truly governed.

    • Scott

      “If “We, the People” (which never existed in the first place. It was always: “We, the Elite”) are no longer interested in those freedoms perhaps it’s not that strange to see them disappear?”

      Are you an american citizen? If not the “We” does not pertain to you.

      Also Freedom is the reason why people over the centuries have flocked to America. America offers freedom for all, no matter which freedoms you personally want or don’t want. The language in our constitution was designed not recognize one person’s freedom over another.

      • Phoenix1977

        “Are you an american citizen? If not the “We” does not pertain to you.”
        Since the founding fathers had a very different definition of “people” it most likely would not have included you either.

        “America offers freedom for all, no matter which freedoms you personally want or don’t want. The language in our constitution was designed not recognize one person’s freedom over another.”
        And yet, the majority of the Americans no longer values those freedoms. Just as the majority of Americans does recognize one person’s freedoms over another. So there might be a time when your First Amendment goes the way of the dinosaur, as what happens to all things that refuse to evolve.

        • Scott

          “And yet, the majority of the Americans no longer values those freedoms.”

          Interesting… where is your research to back this claim? I live in America and see many different people living and enjoying different lifestyles with one common thread. They are free to live differently. It is this freedom that all americans should (and I believe will) rally to protect.

          • Phoenix1977

            For one, last year’s Gallup polls, stating the majority of Americans does not feel religious liberty should not be protected if it conflicts with other rights. Also, several articles here on Breakpoint state the very same thing: Americans no longer support several basic rights, including, but not restricted to, the First Amendment.

            “They are free to live differently. It is this freedom that all americans should (and I believe will) rally to protect.”
            I think you think too positively in this matter. People don’t care if other people get trampled as long as they don’t get trampled. And even than they are willing to put up with a lot as long as they can buy their smartphones, drives their cars, visit themeparks like Disneyland and have food on the table.
            Caesar was right when he promised the people bread and games. Because, in the end, only a handful of people care what actually happens and as long as the majority is distracted that small group can get nothing done.

          • Scott

            “I think you think too positively in this matter.”

            I think you think I think too positively? Just remove the word “too” and this might be accurate. : – )

            “Caesar was right when he promised the people bread and games. Because, in the end, only a handful of people care what actually happens and as long as the majority is distracted that small group can get nothing done.”

            Was he?.. I thought the Roman Empire fell?

          • Phoenix1977

            “I thought the Roman Empire fell?”
            Not during Caesar’s reign. In fact, the Roman Empire didn’t fall until it was split in two. And even then the Western Roman Empire fell first, only decades after allowing Christianity take root. The Eastern Roman Empire lasted another 1000 years after the Western Roman Empire fell, also after Christianity got a foot in the door. By then the Eastern Roman Empire was divided in itself, making it easy for the Ottomans to invade and defeat.

          • Scott

            So which is your champion, Roman autocracy or communism?

  • Phoenix1977

    No one is because there is no such thing. Your founding fathers never intended all people in the US to have a say in matters. When your Constitution was written they used a far more restrictive meaning of the world “people”. For example, women weren’t considered people and neither were blacks, Asians or Hispanics. Everyone without a decent education was not labeled “people” in that they had no voting rights and let’s not even start on the Native-Americans.
    So “We, the People” should have read “We, the Elite”, which is exactly what you got in the US and exactly what most of you despise.

    • Scott

      “When your Constitution was written they used a far more restrictive meaning of the world “people”. For example, women weren’t considered people and neither were blacks, Asians or Hispanics. Everyone without a decent education was not labeled “people” in that they had no voting rights and let’s not even start on the Native-Americans.”

      How do you know the intensions of the people who composed the US Constitution? Because of the language that was used, America has made great strides in reforming freedom for and equal rights for all it’s people. In fact, we have been a world leader in that regard.

      While it is true that not everyone had equal rights under the law, they still had some rights… and although equality is still a work in progress here in America, we as a people (most of us) are working to that end. The language “We the People” stands as our objective and is now considered to represent all american citizens.

      • Phoenix1977

        “How do you know the intensions of the people who composed the US Constitution?”
        History books?

        “In fact, we have been a world leader in that regard.”
        Hmm, I think you need to put that sentence in the past tense. Hate to burst your bubble but the world no longer favored the US as “freedom fighters” since the first Bush administration and the second one sealed the deal. Not to mention the Trump administration proving the rest of the world is on it’s own. 3 presidents did so much damage to the American reputation in the world the American point of view hardly carries weight in the world anymore.

        “While it is true that not everyone had equal rights under the law, they still had some rights”
        Really? Like dying while working for their masters (the black slaves) or simply dying (the Native-Americans)? Or servicing their husbands and being good and silent little pets (the women? Please enlighten me what rights people who were not the favored elite had?

        “and although equality is still a work in progress here in America, we as a people (most of us) are working to that end. ”
        And yet, when a group of people is finally recognized as being equal conservatives can’t wait to get that undone and put them back in place. Take a look, for example, at judge Roy Moore of Alabama, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from his position twice and is now running for the empty seat in the United States Senate, left by Jeff Sessions. One of his main objectives is to undo the United States Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence vs. Texas, criminalizing all same-sex relationships and activities in the US and making reparative therapy mandatory for all LGBTs. Great example of “working on equality”.

        “The language “We the People” stands as our objective and is now considered to represent all american citizens.”
        That would imply the US Constitution is a living document while conservatives claim the Constitution is static and immune to change. Which one is it?

        • Scott

          “History books?”

          The history books I read didn’t suggest that “We the People” meant “We the Elite.”

          
”Hmm, I think you need to put that sentence in the past tense. Hate to burst your bubble but the world no longer favored the US as “freedom fighters” since the first Bush administration and the second one sealed the deal. Not to mention the Trump administration proving the rest of the world is on it’s own. 3 presidents did so much damage to the American reputation in the world the American point of view hardly carries weight in the world anymore.”

          Your statement is matter of opinion and certainly true for some… but not all. To avoid a lengthy discussion and save us both a great deal of time, I will leave it at that. : – )

          “Really? Like dying while working for their masters (the black slaves) or simply dying (the Native-Americans)? Or servicing their husbands and being good and silent little pets (the women? Please enlighten me what rights people who were not the favored elite had?”

          Your original statement said “women weren’t considered people…” and that was false. You tend to speak in dramatic over generalizations, lumping too many categories into the same basket. No doubt America has a sordid history of racist people mistreating minorities… But we champion the work of those who fought against such mistreatment and work towards equality.

          “And yet, when a group of people is finally recognized as being equal conservatives can’t wait to get that undone and put them back in place. Take a look, for example, at judge Roy Moore of Alabama, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from his position twice and is now running for the empty seat in the United States Senate, left by Jeff Sessions. One of his main objectives is to undo the United States Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence vs. Texas, criminalizing all same-sex relationships and activities in the US and making reparative therapy mandatory for all LGBTs. Great example of “working on equality”.

          Yes, Roy Moore is a good example of my “still a work in progress” comment. Roy represents the extreme right.

          I believe LGBT’s views on sexuality are sinful and go against God’s moral laws designed for human flourishing… but God did give us free will. American policy should follow God’s lead (regarding free will).

          That would imply the US Constitution is a living document while conservatives claim the Constitution is static and immune to change. Which one is it?”

          It implies no such thing?.. I speak of interpretation.

  • Victor Lawson

    And a big part of the problem is too many lawyers and judges have no clue about so many things in the constitution. One of the things that really irks me is the morons that claim the US Constitution is open to interpretation. NOOOOOOO, the US Constitution says what it means, means what it says and it doesn’t take a law degree to read and understand the US Constitution. Saying the US Constitution is open to interpretation is akin to saying everybody has an opinion what anything in the constitution means and we can therefor have over 330 million differing opinions on any item in the constitution. The US Constitution is NOT open to interpretation or 330 million, 7 billion or 2 opinions because that would be anarchy. The big mistake the founders made was to NOT put it in the constitution that federal court decisions have to be unanimous to be valid, otherwise anything coming out of federal courts would be invalid. I always say if you drive a black pickup truck and you line up nine lawyers with 4 of them saying “nice black pickup truck” and the other 5 say “nice PINK sedan”, we have a very serious problem with the 5 that cannot distinguish between a black pickup truck and a pink sedan. And we’re seen decisions from federal courts that are grossly close to the pickup analogy.

  • E

    “Gallup polls, stating the majority of Americans does not feel religious
    liberty should not be protected if it conflicts with other rights.”

    Okay, polls mean nothing, otherwise Trump wouldn’t be President. Most polls leading up to the 2016 election had him behind HC the entire time.

    I don’t believe the Constitution is for only the ‘elite’. I look at the Time in which it was written, the language and the culture was different then now. But overall, I believe the founding father’s were trying to make sure future generations had their basic rights protected.

    These days, the importance of teaching social activism in public elementary and high schools seems to be the norm, while teaching Civics education is left to college electives. This comes from my own experience and that of other’s that I know.