Feb. 2013. Constitution Day

I submitted this to the Concord Monitor in early February, 2013, but I do not think that they published it.

As Ben Leubsdorf reported (“NH House votes to require Constitution Day events in public schools,” Concord Monitor Jan. 31), our state government has mandated that every public school hold “patriotic exercises” on September 17, the date that our Constitution was signed in 1787. (The Constitution did not go into effect until June 21, 1788.) When passed by the NH Senate, this bill will fulfill a Federal requirement for Constitution Day celebrations in public schools.

The mandate to hold patriotic exercises in all public schools on the same day is a perfect example of misguided governmental interference. Lawmakers may believe that our country is so lacking in patriotic fever that it is a good idea to invent new celebrations and take away instruction time from our hard-pressed teachers.   I disagree.

As a long-time high-school teacher of US History, I am all in favor of requiring that every public school student study the US Constitution, a subject to which I devote three weeks in October. I would not be opposed to having selections from Montesquieu, Locke, Blackstone, and Federalist 10 be required reading. But to mandate that I have to lose class time on Sept. 17—at which point in my course I am not even up to the French and Indian War—to hold “patriotic exercises” about the Constitution is the same sort of intrusive governmental interference that makes many in New Hampshire question the erosion of our liberties.

Feb. 2, 2013