The U.S. Constitution is an amazing document, but it is nowhere near perfect.
The Constitution is a living and evolving document. One of the ways that the Constitution is changed is through a grueling amendment process. The process is arduous, antiquated, and tedious...and that's exactly how it should be. Changing the Constitution (and with it the structure of our nation) SHOULD be difficult and cumbersome. This allows us to avoid knee-jerk reaction to extreme events.
Though out the history of our nation (nearly 240 years and counting) we have only changed our Constitution 27 times. And to be fair, two of those times don't count (once was when we created Prohibition with the 18th Amendment and the second time was 17 years later, when we created the 21st Amendment to get ride of the 18th).
However, our limited changes to the Constitution aren't from a lack of trying. Each year, hundreds of constitutional amendments are proposed. Almost never do any of them become actual Amendments. In fact, almost never do any of them even get out of committee.
Before we get to the specifics, it's worth reviewing the process for amending the U.S. Constitution.
Amendments can be proposed two ways: '
In Congress or
By a national convention assembled at the request of the request of the two-thirds of the state legislatures.
Below are some examples of unsuccessful Amendments that have been proposed within the 21st century.
A balanced budget amendment, in which Congress and the President are forced to balance the budget every year, has been introduced many times.
School Prayer Amendment to establish that "The people retain the right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including schools."
God in the Pledge of Allegiance – declaring that it is not an establishment of religion for teachers to lead students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (with the words "one Nation under God")
Every Vote Counts Amendment – proposed by Congressman Gene Green on September 14, 2004. It would abolish the electoral college.
Continuity of Government Amendment – after a Senate hearing in 2004 regarding the need for an amendment to ensure continuity of government in the event that many members of Congress become incapacitated, Senator John Cornyn introduced an amendment to allow Congress to temporarily replace members after at least a quarter of either chamber is incapacitated
Equal Opportunity to Govern Amendment – proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch. It would allow naturalized citizens with at least twenty years' citizenship to become president.
Seventeenth Amendment repeal – proposed in 2004 by Georgia Senator Zell Miller. It would reinstate the appointment of Senators by state legislatures as originally required by Article One, Section Three, Clauses One and Three.
The Federal Marriage Amendment has been introduced in the United States Congress four times: in 2003, 2004, 2005/2006 and 2008 by multiple members of Congress (with support from then-President George W. Bush). It would define marriage and prohibit same-sex marriage, even at the state level.
Twenty-second Amendment repeal – proposed as early as 1989, various congressmen, the current amendment limits the president to two elected terms in office, and up to two years succeeding a President in office. Last action was On January 4, 2013,
On January 16, 2009, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana proposed an amendment which would have denied US citizenship to anyone born in the US unless at least one parent were a US citizen, a permanent resident, or in the armed forces.
On November 11, 2009, Senator Jim DeMint proposed term limits for the U.S. Congress, where the limit for senators will be two terms for a total of 12 years and for representatives, three terms for a total of six years.
On December 8, 2011 Senator Bernie Sanders filed The Saving American Democracy Amendment, which would state that corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as people. It would also ban corporate campaign donations to candidates, and give Congress and the states broad authority to regulate spending in elections. This amendment would overturn the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Civics teachers nationwide are letting out a collective, “Doh!”
A new survey(McCormickTribuneFreedomMuseum) was released that makes social studies teachers everywhere weep. The survey showed that only an incredible one in four Americans (28 percent) are able to
name more than one of the five fundamental freedoms granted to them by the
First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet when it comes to knowledge of
popular culture, Americans are considerably more tuned in. For example, almost
twice as many Americans (52 percent) can name at least two members of “The
Simpsons” cartoon family.
And while more than one in
five (22 percent) Americans can name all five of the fictional Simpsons family members – Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie – just
one in 1,000 people surveyed (that's .1 percent) were able to name all five freedoms
granted under the First Amendment.
“These survey results clearly
demonstrate that many Americans don’t have an understanding of the freedoms
they regularly enjoy.,” said Dave Anderson, executive director of the McCormickTribuneFreedomMuseum.
Similar results were seen
when comparing Americans’ knowledge of the First Amendment to that of the long-lasting Fox Television show “American Idol.” More than four in 10 Americans (41
percent) could name two of the three “American Idol” judges and one in four
could name all three. Unfortunately, just 8 percent of Americans could name at
least three of their First Amendment freedoms.
As if that isn't bad enough! What many would consider worse is the number of Americans who misidentify various other rights as coming from the First Amendment. For instance, a majority of Americans (55 percent) believe the right to a jury trial was guaranteed by the First Amendment (it was the 7th). What is even more dumbfounding is that 38 percent of Americans believe that the right against self incrimination at trial -commonly called "taking the 5th" - is also a right granted by the First Amendment (Guess what, it actually comes from the 5th).
Other statistics in the study show that not only are we ignorant about our rights but we're ignorant about our history also. 36 percent of people polled somehow believe that the First Amendment guarantees women the right to vote, that right wasn't granted until 1920 (the 19th Amendment).
But wait, do you want the statistics that will break your heart and give up all hope in humanity? How about this? According to the study about one in five Americans (21 percent) believe that the First Amendment grants them the right to own a pet! Seriously? Yes, our Founding Fathers were concerned with taxation without representation, a lack of due process in the courts....and Fido!
The icing on the cake: one in five also believe that the right to drive a car is guaranteed by the First Amendment, even though the automobile was not invented for another 100 years.
Below is a list of other freedoms, and the percentage of Americans who were able to name them when asked to list the freedoms of the First Amendment, are:
Most people think that the Declaration of Independence is some dry legal documents that declared the 13 colonies intention to be free of British rule. In reality, it is so much more than that. The Declaration of Independence is beautiful. It is literature genius. In it's simplest form, it is one of the most beautiful and eloquently written break up letter of all time.
ASSIGNMENT: Read through the D.O.I. and re-write it as a traditional teen break-up letter. You do not need to recreate the declaration word for word, just the intent of each paragraph. You need to re-write the Opening Paragraph, Political Theory, and Conclusion paragraphs. In the List of Grievances, you need to find 10 and "modernize" them.
The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
*The Political Theory of the Declaration:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
**A list of grievances committed by the King:
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
*The Formal Proclamation of Independence:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Signers of the Declaration of Independence:
John Hancock, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton, , Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery , Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott,William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
* = You must re-write this paragraph
** = You must choose 5 of these grievances and re-write them.