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"To form a more perfect union"

By Henry Lamb
web posted June 6, 2005

America has long forgotten the vision which compelled our founders to gather in Philadelphia - "...to form a more perfect union." It was a vision of free people, governing themselves.

The quest for political power has taken precedence over the vision of a more perfect union. The purpose of self-governance - "to...secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...," has been discarded by the politically powerful. The new vision is political power; the new purpose is to control society by limiting individual liberty, and denying it to our posterity.

For more than a generation, children have been denied the opportunity to learn how the blessings of liberty originate, and how to secure those blessings for themselves and their posterity, by limiting the power of government. Instead, they learn that the purpose of government is to decide what individuals may - and may not - do, and that compliance with government mandates is the source of security.

Raw political power, exercised through the force of government, is responsible for transforming the values and attitudes of a generation of Americans who have lost sight of our founders' vision.

The government's education initiatives, for more than a decade, have systematically expunged references to individual achievement, excellence, and liberty. Children are taught that the prize is not in winning, but in playing; that individual excellence is detrimental to the comity of the group.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that the Center for Civic Education provide the Civics curriculum taught in public schools. What is being taught is a far cry from the values and principles captured in the Constitution, crafted by those Americans who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787.

From kindergarten to college, students are prepared for "global citizenship," through lessons that demean national sovereignty in favor of international acceptance. Children are no longer taught the value of representative government, exercised by individuals freely elected from an arena of conflicting ideas. They are taught, instead, that consensus is more efficient, and that political power determines who controls the consensus process, the agenda, and the outcome.

If the blessings of liberty are to be secured for ourselves and our posterity, Americans, and the politicians they elect, must return to the quest of forming a more perfect union, rather than the quest for political power. We must rediscover the vision of our founders.

The National Center for Constitutional Studies has prepared a fantastic two-hour movie of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It dramatizes the debates over how the new government should be formed. Through an excellent cast of characters, the various points of view are illustrated. The arguments, often passionate, crystalize the issues and demonstrate how men of goodwill were able to find compromise.

Every American, and certainly, every school student, should see this powerful movie. The center has also developed a five-segment presentation especially for use in schools, accompanied by a teacher's guide.

Congress has designated September 17, the day that the Constitution was signed by the founders, as "Citizenship Day," and Public Law 108-447 requires that learning experiences about the Constitution be made available to students on this day. President George W. Bush has designated the week of September 17 - 23 as "Constitution Week." Students should be learning what the Constitution says, and why it is important.

The Constitution evolved as it did, as the result of conflicting ideas being hammered into compromise by reason, common sense, and a common goal. Students need to understand why the founders provided two legislative chambers, not simply that there are two chambers. Students need to understand why there is an electoral college, not simply that there is one. Students need to understand why the Constitution for the United States of America created the best system of self-governance ever devised.

Progress toward a more perfect union should not depend upon which political party is in power; it should depend upon the power of the arguments offered in support a particular idea. Persuasion should not be imposed by political bosses; it should be informed by reasoned debate.

The founders created a magnificent structure. It is the responsibility of each succeeding generation to understand it, defend and protect it, and to make sure that our posterity are not denied the blessings of liberty.

This generation is dangerously close to allowing the bright light of liberty to be extinguished - by letting the principles of freedom, enshrined in our Constitution, be forgotten.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.


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