So much is evoked by the phrase “We the People”. So much has changed in our world since these three words were written as preamble to the U.S. Constitution. “We the People” means something very different now compared to what it signified to those who were even able to read the document in 1787. It certainly means something different now to what the founding fathers intended. In fact, if you were not male, white, wealthy and a property owner you were not “the People”!
This is where the song “We the People” got its start. It came out of a workshop with a group of 4th/5th grade students redefining and updating who “We the People” are!
September 17th has become Constitution Day. It is federally mandated that every public school ‘celebrates’ the constitution on the day it was born. What better way to celebrate the Constitution than to inspire and enact a little freedom of expression and the right to think for oneself right there in the micro-world-ecology of your classroom?
Part of the job of an educator is to be able to put oneself ‘in the shoes’ of the children who are entrusted to your care. To do this requires slowing down enough to listen, empathize, watch, notice and catch things on the run.
In many ways kids are the same today as we were as children. It’s good to take into account and remember what it is like to be a kid. However, the children of the world today are born into a time of change so some things are actually different. What appear as big changes to us are natural to the children of our time, because they were born into it, they are acclimated to it. So to get inside their ‘shoes’ as an educator, whether you are a teacher, parent, counselor, coach or mentor here are a few practical and engaging conversations to have with your students in respect to the U.S. Constitution to get to their perspective of our changing times:
- 1. Who do we mean by “We the People”?
2. Who did the founding fathers mean by “We the People” and why?
3. How has the definition of “We the People” changed since 1787?
4. If you were to write a constitution for the whole world, that is a Universal Constitution, how would you describe “We the People”? How would accommodate the rich variety of world cultures, beliefs and ways of life in your constitution?
5. The founding fathers had a remarkable vision for the Constitution of the U.S. government. They envisioned and helped to create a government of the people, for the people, by the people. What protections did they put into the Constitution to keep our country safe from abuse of power?
- 6. What has been updated in the Constitution since it was originally drafted in 1787?
7. What needs to be respectfully updated in the Constitution now?
- 8. What does the Constitution say “no” to?
9. What rights and freedoms do we enjoy because of the Constitution?
10. What rights and freedoms would you want all the peoples of the world to have?
So there are a few starter questions to sink your teeth into with the children in your care. The idea is to give voice to their perspective. You can also enhance the whole process by learning the song “We the People” if you wish! The Constitution will carry new meaning and value for you and your students as a result.