I had the pleasure of spending the morning with the eighth grade teachers and students of the brand new Chief Umtuch Middle School in Battle Ground. We had fun introducing the document to the students with a quick energizer.
I began by telling them that the Constitution is a rule book for the game of government, just like any set of rules they need to know to play a game. This set of rules emerged from a particular historical moment where participants had been playing under the British colonial system, where they felt the government had too much power, and the Articles of Confederation, where it had too little.
So, this rule book describes:
- Who runs the government?
- What powers do they have?
- How do we make sure that nobody has too much power?
At this point, a representative of the police department arrived to arrest one of the teachers. The allegation was that the officer’s brother-in-law had heard that she had made some disparaging comments about the government while shopping the previous night. The teacher responded in protest; the police representative kept at her. I interrupted, asking students to take a look at their rule sheet to see whether or not this was playing by the rules. The kids hopped quick to the First Amendment.
Next, we did the same thing with the 4th Amendment (that same brother-in-law’s cousin’s girlfriend thought another teacher might have something in her purse) and the 3rd (a broken toilet at the station meant that the department would need to be relocated in another teacher’s house.) By the end, the students said they were happy that there is a rule book guiding government action.
While the lesson may not have dug deep enough, I thought it worked great as an introduction to Constitution as rule of law. Kudos to the teachers, students, and administrators at Chief Umtuch.
Happy Constitution Day!