Kevin Roberts, Ph.D., is executive director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. A lifelong educator, Roberts earned his Ph.D. in American history from The University of Texas, thereafter serving as a history professor, and ultimately starting his own K-12 school, John Paul the Great Academy in Louisiana.
Tom K. Lindsay, Ph.D., is a distinguished senior fellow of higher education and constitutional studies at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He has more than two decades’ experience in education management and instruction, including service as a dean, provost, and college president.
Don’t think of it as simply the successful culmination of the American Revolution—it was much, much more than that. The signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 was a revolution for the entire world.
This revolution placed the ultimate power in the hands of the people, rather than a ruling class. No longer was liberty to be seen as something generously given to the people by their government. Instead, the Constitution established a new form of government—based on the consent of the governed. Just as Lord Cornwallis’ troops played “The World Turned Upside Down” following his surrender at Yorktown, the Constitution truly did turn upside down the relationship between government and the governed.
The Constitution also held within itself the keys to realizing its highest promises of equality—the never-ended effort toward “a more perfect union.”
Today, of course, we hear the incessant falsehood of the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which “reframes” the founding of America as fundamentally flawed—based upon slavery. The great 19th-century orator, and former-slave-turned-abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, proclaimed in 1852 that the Constitution is a glorious “liberty document.” As evidence, he pointed especially to the Constitution’s called-for ban on the slave importation, which took effect in 1808. No constitution bans that which it views as good, said Douglass, who pointed to the Founders’ expectation that the new government which they had put in place would, in time, purge the cancer of chattel slavery.
A later orator, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., called not for the Constitution to be abolished, but for it to be fully implemented.
Unfortunately, America’s young people today have not been taught the principles and history of our country. This civic illiteracy is no fault of theirs. Instead, the blame lays at the feet of our educational institutions, which have largely abandoned teaching a Founding-documents-based approach to civic education.
Our students cannot be expected to defend that which they do not understand. Freedom is not a gift, it must be re-earned, through being relearned, every generation. This is the challenge our nation faces.
That our freedom may never be lost, the Texas Public Policy Foundation calls on our educators to teach the moral and political principles that make the Constitution the greatest governing document in the world.
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