Constitution Day: What should colleges commemorate?

Published 6:00 am Thursday, September 13, 2018

The federal government requires colleges to commemorate Constitution Day, which was Sept. 17, with some student activity to qualify for Title IV grant monies, which, if people really read the Constitution, they would find no authority for the grant. The requirement is largely ignored.

Some years back I was asked to give suggestions for a meaningful constitutional program. The assigned administer and I pondered several options none of which seemed fitting or particularly meaningful. Still, we should do something—constitutional ignorance is appalling and patriotism from those under 25 has not really been taught. Now athletes making millions, because the document made it possible for their talent to flourish under freedom, refuse to stand when our national anthem is played. These may not deserve the freedom that is still left from the document.

Where do we start? Virtually no one reads the Constitution anymore and neither major political party feels particularly harnessed by it as the Founders intended. Few college courses require it being read in full and few universities have a class specifically dedicated to it—not even law schools. I know no one in my profession that actually had to read the entire document for a Ph. D.

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Should I talk about the total disregard of the list in Article I, Section 8 from which the government is limited in making laws? The Founders created the list so that government could not rule wherever it pleased, as in other countries. Or perhaps the 10th Amendment which strengthens the argument that all powers not specifically mentioned remain with the states and with the people which is flagrantly violated almost daily by a renegade, constitutionally inept, or ignorant congress.

Should I talk about the separation of powers created by the Founders where one branch made the law, another enforced the law, and yet a third adjudicated the law—a separation that we used to honor. If I did I would also have to talk about the present corruptness of the separation. For the last sixty years an unelected bureaucracy made most federal laws because Congress got lazy and allowed other organizations to fill in the details for them. Now called rules and regulations instead of laws, but they still exact a punishment if a business or individual is out of harmony. Until the Trump Administration the Federal Register, wherein they are housed, daily added a half-inch thick of pages of new ones.

Also, I would have to mention that presidents make law by executive orders, most with no actual legislative authorization. Signing statements, popularized by the George W. Bush Administration, distorted laws passed by Congress by effectively removing portions he disagreed with. The Obama Administration created 34 “Czars,” a new level of administrators (purposely skirting Senate confirmation), to manage areas where no Constitutional authority existed. To all of this Congress remained silent to the abduction of her power.

The Supreme Court also makes law by ruling in such a way as to give existing law new meaning never envisioned in its origin; or by giving its approval to law having no constitutional base—as for example national health care. Justice Clarence Thomas admitted that some Justices attempt to ascertain what the Founders had in mind before ruling; others he said, “just make it up.” This could be a college presentation. Would enough students listen, or even care?

The notion of federalism that the states handle domestic issues and the federal government primarily foreign issues and that they are coequal (like a marriage) neither being master or slave to the other is gone; as is the Constitutional mandate that federal empowerment requires the consent of 3/4ths of the states as stipulated in Article V. This might be a good topic but it would take at least an hour to explain and some quick student assemblage to fulfill the government mandated requirement would never do. Besides this notion of shared and equal power was abandoned in the fifties and sixties and today the federal government clearly rules the states who now bow in near total obedience, their palms extended and tongues hanging out, for federal government grants in areas where the federal government has no constitutional authority to grant.

States and colleges, like individuals, are addicted to the “free” money. Try telling a student body that the “free” college tuition advocated by beloved socialist guru Bernie Sanders, and others like him, is totally unconstitutional without an amendment to the Constitution and see if you are allowed to finish your required presentation.

There are so many other topics one might cover. The distortion of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution from an intended individual right to have a weapon, whether government approved or not, to only a collective right through a militia, now interpreted as the National Guard, which organization did not then exist. Or, the mutilation of the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments under the National Defense Authorization Act legislation passed by Congress Dec. 2012.

My point! The Constitution is a foreign language to most and this ignorance has resulted in our being out of harmony so long. Where do I start? The perversions are almost numberless. Colleges supposedly do something to qualify for the Title IV grants, on or before, Sept. 17, but is what they do meaningful? I very much doubt that any of the aforementioned objections are mentioned.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more, visit