The Founding Fathers and the Constitution

When I took Constitutional Law (a required course) in law school, I had been looking forward to it. Of all my classes in law school, this was the most disappointing. We never once read, or were required to read, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence, or the Federalist Papers.

We learned in our Contracts class, that to understand a contract you had to look into the “four corners” of the document to understand the basic premise. That apparently isn’t the case with the most important document in the establishment of the nation, the Constitution.

Our class assignments consisted only of studying the cases that interpreted the Constitution. As I read those, I came to believe that many of those cases were diametrically in opposition to what was actually stated in the Constitution itself. That’s why our judges make some of the decisions they make today. Because in law school they never really read the underlying document, only case law. Sometimes case law gets it wrong!

After law school, I took a 3 month course on the U.S. Constitution. In this course, the Constitution itself was the basis for our study. We also read the Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence, and studied the Federalist Papers, which explain the reasoning behind the Constitution.

Later I actually taught some courses on the Constitution. Not the Constitution alone, but also its history, and the history of the lives of the framers themselves. I found that is the most interesting way to learn the Constitution and its principles. Study the documents and the people involved. What a difference. It was actually fun!  That’s what our High School and College students should be required to study. Perhaps even the elementary students should get a beginning course.

Most Americans haven’t even read the primary documents at all. That’s the most surprising thing!

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