Constitution Day comes to local schools |

Constitution Day comes to local schools

Have you heard of the United States Constitution?

Congress hopes kids will know what it is after Friday, the congressionally-designated Constitution Day.

A law passed last year mandates that federally-funded schools nationwide teach about America’s defining document every Sept. 17 ” the date in 1787 that the Constitution was signed ” to combat apparent widespread ignorance about what the Constitution says.

Because Sept. 17 is a Saturday this year, Constitution Day falls on Sept. 16, but many local schools have only vague plans for what they will do to educate their students about the freedom the document grants.

For sure, “teachers will increase the familiarity with the document because a lot of kids haven’t even heard of it,” said Ted Donohue, assistant principal of Glenwood Springs Elementary School.

That’s the problem, says ardent Constitution Day activist Andy McKean, of Denver, who is promoting the day throughout Colorado.

“We need to get our people to understand the fight that occurred to get this country established,” he said. “If you don’t know your rights … you’re doomed to be a passive recipient of what happens.”

Donohue said he plans to read the preamble to the Constitution to the student body on Friday and define some of the language used in it. Teachers will then include information about the Constitution in their lessons that day.

Others aren’t so sure how Constitution Day will shape up at their schools.

Basalt Elementary School Principal Suzanne Wheeler del Piccolo said she doesn’t know what her school’s plans are and refused to comment further.

Glenwood Middle School Principal Robert Faris said teachers there may engage their students in “social awareness activities.”

Basalt Middle School Principal Christian Kingsbury said he doesn’t know what his school will do to observe Constitution Day, but whatever the school does, it’s a good idea to raise awareness of the Constitution.

“The grade levels that don’t focus on the Constitution don’t really mention the Constitution,” he said, adding that most students are taught about it in the eighth grade as a regular part of the curriculum.

Cliff Colia, principal of Carbondale Middle School, said students will do “awareness activities” on student and family rights under the Constitution. But, he said, citizenship issues, such as students’ responsibility to their community, are already included informally throughout the school’s curriculum in all grades.

Roaring Fork School District Re-1 Superintendent Fred Wall said there is no lack of Constitution education in local schools, and Congress has foisted Constitution Day upon all schools despite their curriculums.

High school juniors, he said, take a “Fundamentals of American Democracy” class, while lessons about government begin as early as kindergarten. U.S. history, he said, is taught in middle school.

“I don’t think it’s a problem,” Wall said. “It becomes somebody’s issue because of something that’s happened in their (school district). Then, all of a sudden, it becomes a mandate in every school.”

But one special day to celebrate the Constitution is enough to make a lasting impression on students, McKean said. The Constitution becomes important to students by making a special day out of it, he said.

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