Why Haven’t You Read The Bill of Rights?

This article was originally posted on Original Path, a website dedicated to showing students they have options outside of traditional education.

One of the central needs for a democracy is a well educate public. This has been noted by countless philosophers, educators and many of the founding fathers. The stability of a democracy is maintained in the education of those voting, and in our variant of democracy, the voter is not educated to be a citizen. While their government teaches them about what it holds to be the truth, their government rarely teaches them about its inner workings.

The idea that we need a strong education system for our society is a well-used argument for the existence of a public education system, however, the American education system has failed that end. Case and point, when did you read the Bill of Rights?

I had left traditional school for charter schools. I had left charter schools for a very unique alternative education experience. It was not until I was almost done with the very off-base form of alt ed, that I had even read the bill of rights. It had been mentioned often and made reference to in many history and government classes, yet I had never read it until I was an adult.

I don’t think it was anyone’s responsibility to enforce that I read The Bill of Rights and later amendments, and I am happy I read it when I read it. However, the idea that I had never laid eyes on until well after leaving public school should, at best, indicate that our education system does not prepare our citizens. When students don’t understand the basic functions of governments, the laws they are expected to follow, their income taxes and most importantly, their right in the eyes of the government, how can such an education system be preparing them for the future?

The more I talk about this, the more I find very few others have read the Bill of Rights. They are taught the principles of science, or how to write an academic paper or the government’s take on history, but never the functions of living as a citizen of the United States.

In somewhat of an insulting twist, students are given references and historical takes on the Bill of Rights, but not taught it. I am reminded of a quick exchange in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

“Do they read Shakespeare?” asked the Savage as they walked, on their way to the Biochemical Laboratories, past the School Library.

“Certainly not,” said the Head Mistress, blushing.

“Our library,” said Dr. Gaffney, “contains only books of reference. If our young people need a distraction, they can get it at the feelies. We don’t encourage them to indulge in any solitary amusements.”

Education is simply not providing the resources for students to become productive, or even knowledgeable members of society. Try and find one person who accurately knows how our political system runs and a who doesn’t have a government degree, and you’ll find they are an exceptional minority in this world. Ask yourself, how is your vote counted? Who makes the ballot at what vote? Often people don’t know who their local representatives are.

The closest resources it gives is the gradual degradation of people into being docile to administration. The poison of bureaucracy is administered early and left to fester. If teaching a public learned helplessness is necessary for a stable society, they have succeeded, however, that sounds more stagnating and crippling to the public than preparing and strengthening them.

Even with all I have written against the argument that education is necessary for a good society, my own conviction that The Bill of Rights is important to read is invalidated by the idea that I could tell students what to read or teachers what to teach. The idea that there could be ideas so valuable they are mandatory, even if they are principal to the founding of our nation, still requires me to assert that I am the arbiter of what a public needs to know and does not need to know. The idea that any given citizen, or the mass of them, circumvents my fellow man’s right to choose, and if I can decide what goes in his mind, he very well can decide what mandatory ideas go in mine.

Education has failed the citizen and the ideal of citizenship. In America, it has taught the minority, not the majority, the inner workings of their government and the rights secured to them. It asserts that there can be ideas so good they must be mandatory, and if it is the government deciding that, who is to say the government’s opinion of a good public cannot simply be an ignorant one? There is no citizenship upheld by education, there is only the pursuit of education upheld by citizens, and their right to pursue their truths nonviolently as they choose is what the government should secure with, not their necessity to comply with fed information.

Until next time,

Cade

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