September 17th marked the 236th birthday of the U.S. Constitution.
In Philadelphia, “We the People,” represented by delegates to the Constitutional Convention, challenged historical precedent and defined our nation through a living document. The spirit of the Constitution is all around us, especially as we walk past Independence Hall and visit the National Constitution Center. (Which is free today, Monday, September 18.)
But even with the document embedded in our sense of place, I worry that too few citizens read and understand the Constitution, its amendments, and the Supreme Court decisions that have interpreted it.
PA Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, addresses this problem with a podcast mini-series entitled, “Re-vision: Conversations about our Constitution.” The episode on the First Amendment is available now.
The idea behind the podcast is to apply knowledge of the humanities — in this case the Constitution — to everyday life. The podcast poses the question: “How do we reconcile our Constitutional right to freedom of speech with contemporary issues like book banning and misinformation?”
As an educator who has written frequently in The Citizen and elsewhere about the importance of including discussion of the Constitution in classrooms from grade school to grad school, I was honored to participate in Episode 1: The First Amendment. John Culhane, J.D. Distinguished Professor of Law at Widener University, provides legal and historical background.But the star of the podcast is high school student Joslyn Diffenbaugh, founder of Kutztown Teen Banned Book Club. In September 2023, as Constitutional issues swirl around us, Joslyn’s engagement and pragmatic actions give us all hope.
Elaine Maimon, Ph.D., is an Advisor at the American Council on Education. She is the author of Leading Academic Change: Vision, Strategy, Transformation. Her long career in higher education has encompassed top executive positions at public universities as well as distinction as a scholar in rhetoric/composition. Her co-authored book, Writing In The Arts and Sciences, has been designated as a landmark text. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum. Follow @epmaimon on Twitter.
MORE ON THE CONSTITUTIONPhoto by wiredforlego via Flickr.