The U.S. Constitution was written 226 years ago. While lawyers and scholars generally appreciate its significance, is it really important for the next generation to understand the foundational document of American government? This week on Home School Heartbeat , 14-year-old Juliette Turner explains to host Mike Farris that the U.S. Constitution is still so relevant that she was inspired write a book about it!
Mike Farris: Our guest today is Juliette Turner. Juliette’s 14, and she was inspired to write a book about the United States Constitution for elementary and middle-school students after her mom read the entire Constitution to her when she was just 11. Juliette, welcome to the program.
Juliette Turner: Thanks so much for having me. It’s wonderful to be on.
Mike: What is it about the Constitution that gives you such a strong desire to share its truths with others?
Juliette: Well, as you mentioned earlier, you said that my mother sat down with me on the hammock, and she read the Constitution to me. And this was really a pivotal point in my life, because I began to realize how important our Constitution is to preserving our country and our foundation of government. And when I asked kids my age, “What’s the Constitution mean to you?” if they know anything they say, “Oh! Freedom of speech!” And that is a vital part of our Constitution, however, the Constitution is also the foundation of our government, and if we did not have the Constitution we would not have our republican form of government and our checks and balances and our different branches of government that would ensure our freedom and liberty. And so the Constitution is just so important to our everyday lives.
Mike: Well, Juliette, after spending about two decades of teaching young people the Constitution, it is really exciting to hear a young person so on fire for the truths of the Constitution. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: John Adams once said that “liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” Juliette, how does your book help younger students gain a general knowledge of our Constitution?
Juliette Turner: Well, first of all, that quote is one of my mother’s favorite quotes. We actually have that hanging in our kitchen with John Adams’ face. I believe that my book really…what I tried to do was make the Constitution applicable to my generation, because when I tell my friends about the Constitution, they say, “Oh, that’s just a document that was written 226 years ago,” or, “That totally doesn’t apply to my life.” However, through my book, I try to apply it to my sections in each chapter. I have 90 chapters breaking down the Constitution into 90 segments, and I have, “What Has It Done for Me Lately?” “Why Should I Care?” “How Can I Make a Difference?” “Breakin’ It Down,” and “The Bottom Line,” and “What Were They Thinking?” And what I tried to with this is to really make my generation realize that every aspect of the Constitution applies to us today. And I tried to appeal to my generation through all the illustrations and the different colors cause I mean people my age really don’t want to sit down and read scholarly essays on the Constitution. But we have to if we want to preserve our government and our country, and so I tried to make my book appeal to my generation through that way.
Mike: Juliette, I think a lot of older people will also enjoy your approach. The Constitution is for everybody. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: Juliette, how did you get the courage and determination to take on a massive project like this book on the Constitution for younger readers?
Juliette Turner: Well, really, the courage to do this project came from the importance of this project and how important it is for my generation—the future voters of America—to know about our country’s founding document. For if we don’t know our Constitution and our liberties, we won’t know when they’re being infringed upon or taken away. And, especially in times like this when there are debates over the freedom of speech and the right to privacy, we have to know about our Constitution, and we have to know our rights, so when people try to take them away we can say, “No, we have our constitutional rights.” And so my courage really came from the importance about spreading the word about our country’s founding document.
Mike: Juliette, what role did homeschooling play in the creation of this book?
Juliette: Well, really, I wouldn’t have been able to write this book if I hadn’t been homeschooled for a year. And my mother said, “Juliette, Constituting America’s doing this 90-day study on the Constitution. Why don’t you write some essays for kids?” So that’s what I did: every morning I’d go down and write some essays on the Constitution. That was kind of my history project. And so homeschooling really played a large role in the writing of this book.
Mike: Juliette, what a great homeschooling project that you’ve given all our listeners to take a look at for their children to learn the Constitution. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: Juliette, what else are you doing to help encourage other students to study, appreciate, and apply the Constitution in their own lives?
Juliette Turner: I love my book Our Constitution Rocks! My mother also founded a foundation called Constituting America. And what we do with Constituting America—I’m the national youth director—is that we try to make the Constitution applicable to the culture of today. And so instead of having the everyday essay or poem, we also have best song for middle schoolers; for elementary we have best poem and best artwork. For middle schoolers we have best essay and best song. And for high school we have best PSA—Public Service Announcement—best short film, best essay, and best song about how the Constitution is relevant to us. We also have college as well as adult and senior citizen categories, as well. But what we try to do is make the Constitution hip and cool in applying to our culture. So you can be driving down the street and listening to a song about the Constitution or flip through channels and see a commercial or PSA about the Constitution, as well. So we’re trying to make it hip and cool for my generation.
Mike: Juliette, I will give an extra $500 to anybody who writes a good song about Article IV, section two: the citizens of each state shall have the privilege and immunities of the citizens in the several states. I can’t wait to hear a song about that; it will be so fun. This is a great work that you’re doing to make the Constitution come alive to young people. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: So Juliette, you are really on fire for the Constitution, and you’re 14 years old. What’s next for you? What are you going to do with this for the rest of your life?
Juliette Turner: That’s always the million dollar question, isn’t it? But I’m very interested in the Constitution and politics and preserving our country for future generations. And so I’d love to serve my country in some way. But I’m also working on another book right now, which is about our presidents, and so that’s probably the next step for me, and hopefully I’ll continue writing books for my generation about our country’s founding.
Mike: Well, I hope you plan on coming to Patrick Henry College, because you would be perfect, and we would teach you more about the Constitution than anybody else, so in about three years, Juliette, you need to be showing up at Patrick Henry College, and we’ll put you on the moot court team, and you can, you know, be president or something, OK?
Mike: We are excited whenever we run across young people who are on fire for the freedom of our country, because it’s the freedom for their country that really matters. If we’re going to have a free country for the next generation, we have to have young people like Juliette who understand what freedom’s about and are working to preserve it. I’m Mike Farris.