Making History Come Alive
John Jay wrote, "Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country.
. . . By knowing their rights, they will sooner perceive when they are violated and be the better prepared to defend and assert them."
Today, few Americans are well versed in our Constitution. As Jay predicted, they cannot perceive when their rights are violated because they do not know what their rights actually are. Ignorance is a weakness well exploited by many political leaders, but it can be combated with knowledge. The sooner more Americans understand what the Constitution actually says, the sooner we will be prepared to assert and defend our rights.
Generation Joshua's new online resources will bring the Constitution alive for students.
Studying the Constitution can seem like a dry proposition, which is why Generation Joshua is excited to announce new online resources to be introduced in the winter of 2006. In addition to lectures on the historical background of the Constitution, we will be posting scripts that allow GenJ Clubs, co-ops, and families to reenact the constitutional debates.
One group of students has already "experienced" the Constitutional Convention this way. At HSLDA's 2005 National Conference for Christian Homeschool Leaders in Philadelphia, students in the Teen Track spent a day and a half learning about the Constitution in the city where it was debated. The convention came alive through a series of lectures and scripts taken directly from James Madison's notes.
Beginning with the end of the Revolutionary War and the failure of the Articles of Confederation, the first lectures in the Teen Track dealt with the years leading into the convention. Students learned about the 55 delegates to the convention, who desired to rectify the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation by creating a stronger federal government.
As the discussion turned to the Virginia Plan, statesmen such as Edmund Randolph, James Madison, Rufus King, and Gouvernor Morris sprang to life. Using scripts from Madison's convention notes, individual students "became" constitutional delegates and began to experience firsthand the great challenges faced in forming a new government.
The lectures shifted to the New Jersey Plan, with further scripted debates that helped students understand the tension that developed between the smaller and larger states over the issue of representation. The Great Compromise, put forth by Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, prevented the disintegration of the convention. The compromise called for population-based representation in the lower house (today's House of Representatives)-favoring the larger states-and equal representation in the upper house (today's Senate), favoring the smaller states.
The need for compromise was borne out in the debates on slavery. Though today many question the compromises reached during the slavery debates, students realized that the Founders believed slavery was coming to an end of its own accord in America. The Founders feared that if a compromise was not reached, the southern states would attempt to leave the new union, jeopardizing the independence and existence of the other states.
At the end of the Teen Track, one of the students commented, "I now know what 'We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America' really means."
Time has shown the United States Constitution to be one of the greatest documents ever written. By watching the Constitution come alive and becoming aware of how it applies to us today, students will have the intellectual tools to recognize and defend their rights set forth within it.
Beginning in the winter of 2006, Generation Joshua will be making available to its members a series of lectures giving the background of the Constitutional Convention and its major debates, plus scripts of the debates. For more information, visit www.generationjoshua.org.