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EmeraldCityGrl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-06-10 09:00 PM
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Constitutionally Illiterate
On Nov. 5, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, took the podium at a Republican rally, waved a document defiantly and declared:"This is my copy of the Constitution, and I'm going to stand here with the Founding Fathers who wrote in the Preamble, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness …" Mr. Boehner was encouraging participants to protest the pending House vote for health care reform by demanding their constitutional right to make medical decisions.

Pop quiz: What's wrong with this picture?

If you said that there is no explicit constitutional right to make medical decisions, you score some points. If you said that the passage Mr. Boehner quotes is from the Declaration of Independence you get an A. If you also noted that the quotation is not even from the Declaration's preamble, you earn extra credit.

Mr. Boehner is not the first opinion leader to confuse the Constitution with the Declaration, nor is he apt to be the last. Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, for example, said, "As our Constitution declares, we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights …" Of course, Mr. Boehner, unlike Mr. Falwell, entered the profession by promising to protect the Constitution.

Mr. Boehner noted his 19 years of public service, yet how could he protect the Constitution when he can't distinguish it from the Declaration? Indeed, how many public servants, for whom an oath to the Constitution is an entrance requirement, know the document well enough to protect it? Judging from the foregoing, from political rhetoric in media and from many anecdotes, one suspects that constitutional literacy is too low. This is a problem for sworn professionals who cannot protect what they don't know, and it is a problem for the ordinary citizen who, in a democracy, is supposed to be running the country through informed voting and participation in public conversations.

The value of constitutional literacy and the lack of it are obvious, the nature of it less so. What are the minimum conditions for constitutional literacy? This should be the topic of public conversation and consensus. To that end, here are some preliminary suggestions that distinguish eight levels of constitutional literacy. At each level, one should know:

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-06-10 09:03 PM
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1. Ugh. And he's the minority 'head cheeze' in the House? Stinky. nt
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Historic NY Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-06-10 09:40 PM
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2. Maybe we need a "Literacy Test" for candidates.......
Edited on Sat Feb-06-10 09:40 PM by Historic NY
if they don't know what the basic documents of our government, how can they take an oath.
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surrealAmerican Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-06-10 09:52 PM
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3. Perhaps they should start their sessions with a reading from the constitution ...
... instead of a prayer.
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