March 16, 2006

In order to form a more perfect Union

Crissy at Classical Home [she's now blogging here] is, quite rightly, still bothered that "Americans can more easily identify the Simpsons cartoon characters than the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment"*, as the BBC announced the other week.

To help remedy the current sorry state of affairs, Crissy writes,
I believe our children will learn what we offer, so let us offer this information.
Let's make it interesting. Fun, even.
But let us also help our children to understand how important it is to know our Constitution.
They will be far more likely, as voters, to give up these rights and freedoms if they don't know what they are.
and offers several links, including The U.S. Constitution Online. To which I'll add, for the youngest kids, Shh! We're Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz and illustrated by Tomie dePaola; A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy and Giulio Maestro; and ...If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Joan Holub. Handy for homeschooling parents is The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk.

And just in time, So Many Books reviews A Box of Longing with Fifty Drawers: A Revisioning of the Preamble to the Constitution by poet Jen Benka. This slim volume is made up of one poem, in sequence, for each of the 52 words that comprise the Preamble to the Constitution. Here are the first three works/words:

where were we during the convening
two hundred years ago or yesterday
we, not of planter class, but mud hands digging
where were we during the convening
our work, these words, are missing
the tired, the poor, waylaid
where were we during the convening
two hundred years ago or yesterday.


the days wave into months
the sickness claims too many
the bodies overboard
the thick mist finally lifts
the sight of land at last.


crushed dust thrown
across ocean
family bones
a name, my own.
Oops -- almost forgot, even after Stefanie at So Many Books reminded me that I, too, am of the Schoolhouse Rock generation who memorized the Preamble this way:
In 1787 I'm told
Our Founding Fathers did agree
To write a list of principles
For keepin' people free.

The U.S.A. was just startin' out.
A whole brand-new country.
And so our people spelled it out
The things that we should be.

And they put those principles down on
paper and called it the Constitution, and
it's been helping us run our country ever
since then. The first part of the
Constitution is called the Preamble and tells
what those Founding Fathers set out to do.

"We the people
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution
for the United States of America."
* "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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