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Friday, December 3, 2004
When is Robert Byrd Going to Retire?

By Steven Taylor @ 9:02 am

Via Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing, we learn of the following in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Colleges Would Be Required to Teach the Constitution, Under Provision Tucked Into Spending Bill

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat and the Senate’s unofficial constitutional scholar, has inserted language into the final $388-billion spending bill for 2005 requiring that any educational institution that receives federal aid offer its students an instructional program on the U.S. Constitution each September 17, the anniversary of its signing.

While radically less onerous than the attempt by an Alabama state legislator to try and control (among other things) the books in university libraries, it is of the same category of behavior: the abuse of the budegtary process to micro-manage the activities of public institutions.

When one considers that only 8% of the funding for K-12 comes from the federal budget, one wonders why they should have control over curriculum. One guesses that the percentage of funding to colleges and universities is smaller than that. (Not that greater funding levels should lead to curriculum control). However, the situation certainly underscores the problem with Congress acquiring policy control via fiscal policy rather than via constitutional authority (and there is no constitutional power for Congress to regulate education in the US).

And while I can hardly argue with the following, mandating an annual day to study the Constitution isn’t going to solve anything:

In a written statement, Senator Byrd said Americans need to better understand the Constitution and its importance. “We can build upon the respect and reverence we still hold for our Constitution,” the senator said. “But we had better start now, before, through ignorance and apathy, even that much slips away from us.”

Not to mention that odds are good that the vast majority of faculty in K-12 (and, for that matter, in higher ed) aren’t qualified to provide such instruction.

And I agree with Chris:

Perhaps we political scientists (who, doubtless, will be the individuals subject to this unfunded mandate) should also devote another day—say, December 3—to teaching about the practice of including non-germane provisions in conference reports, thus circumventing the committee system and the rest of the ordinary legislative process.

Indeed.

At any rate: any students wishing to learn more about the Constitution feel free to take my American National Government course. More specifically, the honors version of the course is designed specifically around that document, so come on down.

Filed under: US Politics: Academia
  • Outside The Beltway linked with Byrd Requires Colleges Teach Constitution
  • Confessions Of A Political Junkie linked with Mark this date down
  • Hennessy\’s View linked with Monday Morning QB

Click here to go to the main page.

10 Comments»

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  1. I’d invite students to take my Intro to American Government course in the spring, but it’s overbooked as is. That said, there’s still seats in the room, so I might yet be convinced to sign an “add” slip or two.

    BTW, how big’s your honors class?

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 9:21 am

  2. The main sections run 45-50.

    The honors class was a shade under 20 this semester (it is an annual class in the Fall)

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 9:26 am

  3. 45-50? Not so bad. (In fact, my smallest Am Govt class before Millsaps was 70; here, I’m considered to be overworked relative to other departments with just 27.)

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 10:40 am

  4. As it stands there are almost no rooms on campus that accomodate more than 50 (and not all of the sections hit the max anyway). They are, however, building a new building that will have four classrooms with large (100ish, I am thinking) capacities.

    We shall see how things develop from there.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 10:49 am

  5. Thanks to Sen. Byrd I now have an even better example of ways around how a bill becomes a law than some I pulled in the Florida Legislature.

    Course a Poli Sci degree and 8 years in State and Federal Legislature and I am not sure I am qualified to teach the Constitution.

    Comment by Rob M — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 3:44 pm

  6. This doesn’t (and shouldn’t) bother me. Money comes with strings attached. So what? You want to take the Uncle’s money, you play by the Uncle’s rules.

    Comment by Trump — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 5:06 pm

  7. Perhaps.

    But, of course, by that logic, Byrd should have a hand in desiging the fighter jets the Congress pays for and the bridges on interstate highways.

    Legislatures ought to be setting broad policy goals and then hiring experts to execute them.

    Micro-managing policy isn’t the Congress’ job.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 5:13 pm

  8. Not to mention that if he thinks this is a worthwhile endeavor, he shouldn’t hide it in an appropriations bill, he should introduce it and have the Congress debate it.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, December 3, 2004 @ 7:28 pm

  9. OOH yes. teaching the constitution is fraught with danger! I heard the people who wrote it were revolutionaries and radicals. Many were BAD UNCHRISTIAN PEOPLE. DEISTS and worse!

    Better we should have legislation to teach the BIBLE!

    Comment by frodo — Friday, December 17, 2004 @ 5:34 pm

  10. Methinks thou dost miss the point.

    I teach the Constitution all the time-that isn’t the issue.

    The issue is whether Senators ought to be sneaking in curriculum design into omnibus bills.

    Further: perhaps someone ought to teach Senator Byrd the Constitution-it isn’t the role of congress in Article II to make educationsl policy.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, December 17, 2004 @ 5:43 pm

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