What Aren’t Your Kids Learning About America?

Conservative critics of left-wing bias in public education have noshortageofhorrorstoriesto make their point, such as Tanya Dixon-Neely, the North Carolina teacher who is keeping her job despite getting caught on tape in May berating a student for criticizing Barack Obama and telling the class they could get arrested for bad-mouthing their presidents.
But the more pervasive danger to future generations’ political understanding is subtler than outright indoctrination. Even when teachers aren’t out to push an agenda, social studies courses tend to take a superficial approach that may relay key historical events adequately, but provides only the most superficial understanding of the theories and values behind them, if at all.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few simple questions you can ask your kids to judge for yourself just how well served they’ve been in their Social Studies classes:
1.) Who was John Locke, and what did he contribute to the Founding? Despite dying seventy-two years before the Declaration of Independence, the great English philosopher could be thought of as the first Founder, since his writings established the natural right and social compact theories at the Declaration’s heart. Thomas Jefferson’s formulation that “ all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and “that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” is basically the Cliff Notes version of Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government, which proposed consent as government’s only moral justification because nobody has a divine claim over anyone else, protecting individual rights as government’s just purpose, and developed a rational basis for objectively defining what is and is not a right.
2.) What is the significance of the Federalist Papers? Written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay to persuade the new nation to adopt the Constitution, there is no more authoritative guide to our government—and yet, to most students, it’s a footnote at best. They’re denied some of the Founders’ most important lessons, like Federalist 10on the dangers of faction (groups “ actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to…the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”), Federalist 45 on the difference between federal and state roles (“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite”), Federalist 51 on human nature’s implications for politics (“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary”), or the papers’ extensive analysis of the vital difference between direct democracy and the constitutional republic America was designed as. The Federalist Papers reveal that there’s careful thought and important purpose behind every aspect of our Constitution, yet the average high-schooler is likely to graduate with the impression that constitutional mechanics like the Electoral College, separation of powers, and bicameralism were either mere products of sectional compromise or the outdated fallacies of old, white elites.
3.) How did the Founders treat slavery? Conventional wisdom paints the Founders as simply hypocrites who proclaimed liberty for themselves while denying it to blacks. But while the stain of slavery on our history is real, our forefathers’ indifference on the subject is not. Slaveholders held enough power to keep the practice alive, but the Founders overwhelmingly opposed and condemned it. Consider the Three-Fifths Compromise. Everybody knows the constitutional provision that counts slaves as three-fifths of a whole person for purposes of apportioning House seats, but how many know that it was the slaveholders who wanted their slaves to be counted fully, so they could reap the benefits of additional Congressmen who would vote with pro-slavery interests, like the preservation of slavery, fugitive slave laws, and support for slavery in the territories? By counting them as three-fifths, the framers of the Constitution gave slave states lessinfluence over Congress than counting slaves fully would have, without completely alienating their willingness to ratify the Constitution. In fact, the compromise actually gave states an incentive to free their slaves: if their slaves became free men, they’d get more representatives.
Public schools may teach kids the whos, whats, wheres, and whens of American history and politics, but not the whys—an inexcusable inadequacy that denies them what they need most to become civic-minded adults, and demands much greater attention in America’s education debate.
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Barack Obama and the Left’s Willful Anti-Constitutionalism

The Obama Administration reportedly plans on tweaking the case for ObamaCare’s constitutionality it’ll bring before the Supreme Court, shifting its emphasis from the Commerce Clause, which empowers Congress to “regulate commerce…among the several states,” to the Necessary and Proper Clause, which empowers Congress to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” the federal government’s constitutionally-authorized powers:
“The minimum coverage provision is … necessary to achieve Congress’s concededly valid objective of reforming the interstate market in health insurance,” the Justice Department said in its first Supreme Court brief on the merits of the mandate.
You don’t need to have spent so much as a day in law school to understand that this does nothing to improve the White House’s argument. The Necessary & Proper Clause only helps if the objective is identified by the Constitution, and they’re still relying on the commerce rationalization. Unfortunately for the Left, if we’re going by what the Constitution actually means rather than what they want it to mean, we already know that’s a dead end. Alexander Hamilton explained the Commerce Clause in Federalist 22:
The interfering and unneighborly regulations of some States, contrary to the true spirit of the Union, have, in different instances, given just cause of umbrage and complaint to others, and it is to be feared that examples of this nature, if not restrained by a national control, would be multiplied and extended till they became not less serious sources of animosity and discord than injurious impediments to the intcrcourse between the different parts of the Confederacy. “The commerce of the German empire is in continual trammels from the multiplicity of the duties which the several princes and states exact upon the merchandises passing through their territories, by means of which the fine streams and navigable rivers with which Germany is so happily watered are rendered almost useless.” Though the genius of the people of this country might never permit this description to be strictly applicable to us, yet we may reasonably expect, from the gradual conflicts of State regulations, that the citizens of each would at length come to be considered and treated by the others in no better light than that of foreigners and aliens.
In other words, the intended purpose of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce was specifically to prevent the states from discriminating against one another through over-regulation, to erect a uniform standard that would keep the interstate flow of commerce mostly un-regulated. Further, Hamilton’s clearly talking about regulating the actions of state governments, not of individuals. Nothing in the Constitution comes even close to empowering the federal government to compel individuals to purchase a good or service. (For more on the Founders’ understanding of the Commerce Clause, see here.)
The most important thing to understand about this story is that this is not a difficult conclusion to draw. If you have a proper understanding of the purpose behind a written Constitution and how to interpret it, then the rest of the exercise mostly takes care of itself. One need not engage in much heavy theorizing or interpretation thanks to the simple fact that, in most cases, those who wrote the Constitution told us exactly what they meant.
In particular, Barack Obama has no excuse not to know better, considering that the man taught constitutional law. But as Ben Shapiro has been chronicling, Obama’s teaching was defined by an agenda to mislead his students about the law, making originalism subservient to his personal ideology. As president, Obama explicitly chose Supreme Court Justices based on criteria other than their judicial excellence, and his administration has been defined by chronic disregard for any limits on federal and executive power.
Simply put, Barack Obama has no respect for the oath he took to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” and he’s getting away with it in large part because our society doesn’t teach its citizens sufficient constitutional literacy to recognize it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: conservatives can’t restore America’s founding principles if we don’t wake up and work to break the Left’s stranglehold on education.