On Sept. 17, 1787, a piece of paper containing what some consider to be among the most important expressions in the United States was adopted. On that day, in Philadelphia, the 55 delegates of the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution.More than two centuries later, that one document still stands as a vital part of American life.
In 2004, Congress passed a provision that on that same day, schools and colleges that receive federal money must, in one form or another, teach about the Constitution. In effect, “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” was created.
Traditionally the government has strayed from telling educational institutions when something must be taught since that right, under the 10th amendment, is reserved to the states.
However, with the help of West Virginian Sen. Robert Byrd, the directive was passed. As of right now, the Education Department holds schools to an honor system and there are no specifics as to what will happen if schools do not follow the law.
“I don’t like the fact that the government mandated it, but given the fact that it is and people have gaps about the Constitution, we turn the whole thing into something positive,” said Associate Academic Dean Renny Harrigan.
For the second year in a row, Castleton held a few campus events in celebration of Sept. 17 that included MENC singing the national anthem on the steps of Woodruff, voter registration and Stuart Edge-Gerrol presenting a living history of the revolutionary period.
Jason Opal also presented a Soundings event, “Liberal Elites and Local Democrats: The Cultural Politics of the Constitution, Then and Now.”
“He discussed the struggles of the Constitution at its beginning. It was interesting,” said Harrigan. “It has been a highly contested document from the beginning and it is important to understand that it is a living document.”
So why should learning about the Constitution be important to Castleton students?
“I think that we tend to forget that we have these protections and rights. I think we really forget they need to be fought for to maintain them if they are going to be valuable,” said Harrigan. “It is important to know and not give it up.