College students indifferent about the Constitution

Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

228 years ago, delegates gathered at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia where 39 delegates signed the U.S. Constitution, the shortest and the oldest constitution in the world.

However, despite the significance of this founding document, many students on campus, like Emma Johnson, have grown indifferent to subjects like the Constitution.

“It’s not that I don’t care about the Constitution and the government, it’s just that all of the stuff I learned about the government never really registered,” said Johnson.

A study conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) reveals that Johnson is not alone. The study uncovered a wave of shocking misunderstandings college graduates have about the Constitution.

For example, according to the study, one-third of college graduates can’t identify the Bill of Rights as a name given to a group of Constitutional amendments, and 32 percent believe that Representative John Boehner is the current president of the U.S. Senate.

“I haven’t taken a political science course in ages,” said Pat Wilson, a liberal studies major. “I guess that’s why I’m kind of ignorant towards subjects like that. It’s not that I don’t care, I just need a refresher.”

Other students like freshman Sam Carlson are simply not interested in anything government-related.

“I have no desire to learn more about the government,” said Carlson. “But I just started watching House of Cards, so that might change.”

The fact that some students don’t care about the inner workings of local and federal government has left some students, like junior Cameron Smith, concerned.

“Students who don’t know anything about their own government worry me. It’s sad,” said Smith. “You should want to be curious about your government. They run the country that you live in. There are people who don’t even know who their state senators are. It’s insane, and attitudes like that really prevent our country from growing.”

The ACTA’s study also found that 46 percent of college graduates don’t know the election cycle — six years for senators, two years for representatives.

Smith said more colleges should require courses focused on local and federal government.

“I understand that it’s boring stuff, but it’s something we should know,” said Smith. “We pay all this money for school, you should at least get something out of it.”

Students and faculty were invited to a Constitution Day commemorative in the Adanti student center theater on Sept. 23 where a small crowd gathered to reflect on the meaning of this document.

Arthur Paulson, former professor of political science at the university, started the event by delving into James Madison’s constitutional theory through an examination of Federalist Paper #10, an essay written by James Madison. The Federalist Papers are a compilation of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay encouraging the ratification of the American Constitution.

Which do you imagine Madison to consider more dangerous? Minority tyranny or majority tyranny?” said Paulson, posing the question to the crowd.

Paulson engaged the audience through thought-provoking questions and examined Madison’s use of language in the Federalist Papers. He touched on the founding father’s ideas that were arguably inherited by ancient philosophers Aristotle and Plato.

Professor of History, Richard Gerber, also led the discussion, examining the 14th amendment, and how it was applied in the past in comparison to now.  

“I think the school should do more to promote small events like this,” said Chelsea Mallory, sophomore, “slapping a date and a time on the event calendar isn’t enough.”

Photo Credit: Kim Davies


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