Hi everyone! My name is Laura Bornfreund and am new member of the Common Core Team. I was selected as a Fordham Fellow and will be in DC for the next nine months working with Common Core to promote a broad-based, rigorous education.
Happy Constitution Day! – From Lynne, Jacki, and Laura
Four years ago Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) inserted language in an education appropriations bill creating Constitution Day and mandating that schools receiving federal funds recognize the holiday. The day, formerly called Citizenship Day, is an attempt to encourage the study of the Constitution and ensure that September 17, 1787 – the day the Constitution was signed by our nation’s founders – is not forgotten.
While Constitution Day alone won’t buoy the study of history and government to their appropriate standing in today’s classrooms, it does help to call attention to the marginalization of these subjects. As our Still At Risk report brought to light last spring, a third of 17 year-olds do not know the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of speech and religion. That is unacceptable. More must be done to keep history and civics education from being left behind.
Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center, acknowledges in this Washington Post article that “It’s certainly true that most Americans know appallingly little about how our Republic works and many public schools fail to prepare students to be effective, engaged citizens in a democracy. But a few lessons about the Constitution will do little or nothing to renew the civic mission of public schools.”
Well, we like Constitution Day and only wish we could establish a few more such holidays. How about Declaration of Independence Day? Heck- let’s have a day for each of the 17 amendments to the Constitution and for each of the 85 articles that make up the Federalist Papers. We’d even be for Magna Carta Day! But that’s exactly the point: it is vital for school districts, teachers, and policymakers not to let “teachable moments” – such as a holiday – become the only time students learn about our nation’s founding. Teaching America’s schoolchildren what makes their nation great should be a year-round responsibility of our schools.