Today is Constitution Day. Thousands of middle and high school students across San Diego County will better understand the wisdom, complexity and enduring relevance of the United States Constitution thanks to a special ACLU program pairing volunteer speakers with host teachers in celebration of Constitution Day.
Since 2007, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SDIC) has recruited attorneys, civic leaders, community advocates and others to give classroom presentations about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights on or around the Sept. 17 anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Volunteers are asked to be nonpartisan, to share personal experiences and relevant examples of the Constitution as a living document, and to do their best to engage students in thoughtful dialogue.
“At a time when many are questioning what it means to be an American people – from who belongs to who has the right to express their ideas and identity – the ACLU is proud to present this program celebrating our nation’s founding document and our common core values of democracy, individual rights, equal justice and social inclusion. Over the past eleven years, we’ve partnered with educators to bring volunteer speakers to hundreds of classrooms, reaching and teaching more than 100,000 students about the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the fundamental meaning behind the words ‘We The People’” said Norma Chávez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU-SDIC.
ACLU-SDIC has curated and created an array of nonpartisan, student-friendly Constitution Day resources and made them publicly accessible online – for host teachers and volunteer speakers, but especially for educators, parents, students and others who are not participating in the ACLU-coordinated program.
These resources include a downloadable full-color poster, Dare To Create A More Perfect Union and a coloring version. Inspired by Howard Chandler Christy’s iconic “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” this original artwork commissioned by ACLU-SDIC imagines the Constitution’s living legacy as a document to be adapted and improved by future generations in response to our nation’s changing social, political, moral and cultural norms.
Other Constitution Day resources are a recommended outline; slideshow; interactive trivia quizzes; a detailed student study guide; and a speaker’s guide highlighting topical issues, suggested questions to engage students in dialogue, and key court cases that illustrate important constitutional questions. For teachers, we provide documentation of the history and social science content standards met by our program.
ACLU-SDIC founded Celebrate the Constitution! in response to a 2004 congressional mandate that all schools receiving federal funds provide educational programming about the U.S. Constitution on or around the anniversary of its signing on Sept. 17, 1787. Today, the San Diego model is replicated by ACLU affiliates across the nation.
“The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties celebrates the Constitution every day, but we are especially glad to create and coordinate an event that fosters meaningful dialogue in classrooms across our region this Constitution Day,” said Chávez-Peterson. “We hope our Celebrate the Constitution! program and materials inspire young people to think critically about the important constitutional issues that challenge us as a community and the issues that matter most to them in their everyday lives.”