Know the Constitution

Over the course of the weekend, this instructor led the students in an examination of every word of the US Constitution, from the preamble to the 27th amendment. Take a look at how.

Activity: Know the Constitution

Introduction/Background:

This was an active-weekend (2 credit) course offered by Extension. The class met Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Prior Readings included, Joseph Ellis, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, and The Constitution of the United States. Over the course of the weekend, the instructor led the students in an examination of every word of the US Constitution, from the preamble to the 27th amendment. There was ongoing Q&A, discussion and interaction among students, and between students and the instructor.

Goal:

  • To know the Constitution, for starters, and to know how to field questions and lead discussions about it.
  • To demystify the Constitution. At a time when politicians and others regularly invoke the cry of "that's unconstitutional" to criticize measures they oppose, it is important to understand what the Constitution actually says, and what it does not say.

Class: LSTU-E 109A – A  Constitutional Convention

Procedure:

  1. Before seminar.
    1. The instructor transcribed the Constitution onto 95 PowerPoint slides, each with a short section or part of a section that lent itself to discussion. (Some sections – such as the Fourteenth Amendment and the electoral college -- were worth more discussion than others).
  2. During seminar.
    1. As the instructor advanced each section of the Constitution, he explained its meaning and historical significance; why it was made part of the Constitution; what issues it has generated over time; and other aspects meant to increase understanding of what the Constitution actually says.
    2. Interesting details were highlighted, e.g., what sentence of the Constitution applied to just one person? These questions generated classroom discussion that increased understanding.

Follow-up:

  • Each student was required to submit (2 weeks after the weekend) a graded 10-page paper with the following prompt:
    • Draft an amendment to the Constitution that, in your view, would improve our governance;
    • Explain what such an amendment would do and how it would do it;
    • Present the argument for (and anticipate and rebut arguments against) your proposed amendment.

Submitted by Allan A. Ryan, Department of Journalism/Government/Legal Studies

 

opening_remarks_rev_01_08_16-2.docx21 KB
concon_course_paper_jan_03_2016.docx14 KB
constitution_syllabus_2016_jan_3_2016.docx18 KB