With Constitution Day happening today, here’s a look at some essential constitutional resources we use in our quest to explain and understand our founding document.
Constitution Day was established by federal law in 2004 to mandate the teaching of the Constitution in schools that receive federal funds, as well as federal agencies. But the day has grown into much more, as a week-long celebration of the Constitution in towns and at universities and schools.
The day is celebrated on September 17, unless that day is on a weekend. This year, Constitution Day is commemorated on September 18.
Here are 10 key Constitution Day online resources you can use in various ways to learn more about the Constitution, and to help others celebrate.
1. See the actual law that established Constitution Day. It is part of Public Law 108-447, an appropriations bill.
Link: Read the bill
The exact wording: “Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.”
2. Read a copy of the Constitution. We use our Interactive Constitution at the National Constitution Center’s website. Here is the link: http://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution.
Of course, there are other online versions of the Constitution that come in handy, too. The official U.S. Archives page has text – and photos of the original documents. And it has a very good review of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Another handy version is at Cornell’s Legal Information Institute website. This is clear and informative, and it has links to Supreme Court decisions.
3. Look at a list of the signers of the Constitution. This question comes up all the time at the Center, especially since we have a whole room full of statues dedicated to the signers – and a few dissenters.
You can read bios of the 39 Founders who signed the Constitution and the three who refused, at this link on our website.
4. Try a cool interactive tool about the Constitution. Personalize the experience by taking our “Which Founding Fathers Are You” interactive quiz. Just answer 11 short questions and find out if you’re more like James Madison or Benjamin Franklin.
5. Get Frequently Asked Questions list of constitutional questions. We’ve compiled these answers based on several years of taking thousands of questions from students in our live Constitution Day chat room. Once you’ve mastered this list, you can impress your friends and family members.
Here is a link to the list: http://wp.me/p13iVO-4NB
Typical questions include: how many bathrooms are in the White House, and why don’t we have constitutional conventions all the time?
6. Test your basic constitutional knowledge with a pop quiz. We’ve developed a simple, 10-question quiz you can take as a refresher on Constitution basics: You never know who may quiz you about the Bill or Rights or where the Constitution was signed!
7. Share lesson plans with your teacher friends. Most of us who aren’t educators have friends, relatives or acquaintances who are teachers. Make their day with the gift that keeps on giving: lesson plans!
Our Constitution Day website has lesson plans, videos, games and instructional materials at three different learning levels. The link: http://constitutioncenter.org/constitution-day
8. Don’t forget we had another Constitution. Our current Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the document used by the United States in various ways between 1777 and 1789, when our current Constitution was ratified.
The Articles created a loose confederation of states in 1781 with a weak central government. The need for a stronger Federal government quickly became obvious as the Founders decided to convene a Constitutional Convention in 1787.
The Library of Congress has an excellent overview of the Articles at http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/articles.html. And you can read the Articles of Confederation at Yale’s Avalon project.
9: And don't forget our Interactive Constitution app! Once you download the app from iTunes or Google Play, you won't need an Internet connection to read the Constitution, along with dozens of essays from academics who present a balanced analysis and arguments about our Founding document.