Education: What’s It All About?

As a professor of American history for more than twenty years now, I have ceased to be surprised by the lack of knowledge our students bring to the classroom. American history—particularly early American history—is like a foreign language to many. The majority can still identify George Washington, and most know there was a Civil War, but they’re not sure when it happened. The Constitution is virtually an unknown document when it comes to its basic provisions. This year we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the writing of the Constitution. I want my students to understand why that is significant. This is also the anniversary of the writing of the Federalist Papers, the best explanation of what those constitutional provisions meant to those who crafted that founding document. Yet how many students, indeed how many Americans of any age, have any idea that the Federalist Papers exist? That’s “old” stuff. Why should we be concerned with it?

Sometimes our students, even at a Christian evangelical university, are so enmeshed in the culture that they know little else. Their knowledge of our history goes back no further than what happened in their own memory, and their grasp of current affairs may be limited to what impacts them directly.  Some are more attuned to the latest cultural trend than to the pressing issues of the day:

A university education is supposed to be a path toward greater comprehension of life and its meaning. It’s supposed to develop productive people who make their impact on our society for the better. But when you combine the dumbing down of the system with bad economic times, here is what you get instead:

Standards need to be raised across the board. A high school diploma should mean you’ve actually learned something. A college degree should indicate you are now prepared to make your mark because you have grappled with the questions of God, man, and meaning, have developed your powers of critical thinking, and are now ready to make your mark on the culture rather than the culture molding you. That’s my goal for my students as I teach them. It’s gratifying when that occurs.

So I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge all the students I’ve taught over the years—whether at Indiana Wesleyan University, Regent University, Patrick Henry College, or Southeastern University—and let them know I’ve appreciated the time spent with all of them. I also want them to know how proud [in the proper sense of the term] I am that they have allowed the Lord to use them for good in our world. I’m reminded of this admonition from the apostle Paul to Timothy:

The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men [and women] who will be able to teach others also. … Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Let’s all remain faithful to this charge.

Media-Ignored Stories

I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve missed a couple of really big stories lately. The reason you may have missed them is that they have rarely been mentioned in the mainstream media. The first is a potential constitutional earthquake. Reporters who say they are devoted to the First Amendment for its free-speech protections are strangely silent when it comes to religious freedom, particularly when their beloved Obamacare and “right-to-choose-abortion” beliefs may be smacked down.

Forty-three Catholic agencies have initiated lawsuits against the Obamacare mandate that they violate their religious beliefs by offering both contraceptive and abortifacient drugs to employees—and to students in the case of colleges.

If they can win these cases, religious liberty will continue to be protected. If not . . . well, you be the judge.

Then there is the embarrassing story that is developing in the Democrat primaries. Are you even aware there are Democrat primaries? They haven’t been a matter of news before now since the president has no formal opponent. Yet, in the West Virginia primary a convicted felon received 40% of the vote, in Arkansas, an unknown on the ballot also got about 40%, and in Kentucky, with no one else on the ballot but Obama, the “undecided” choice on the ticket received 40% as well. Does that sound like a Democrat electorate that is solidly behind reelection? Maybe they’ve been contemplating their leader’s real record:

This is no threat to Obama’s renomination, but it’s an early signal of what he may face in the general election. At least, that is my hope.

Protests: A Study in Contrasts

I’ve been watching some of the videos from the NATO protests in Chicago. Protesters throw bottles and other missiles at police. Some have called for the deaths of police and NATO personnel. Many are dressed in outfits that make them look like no more than ordinary street thugs. As some commentators have noted, this is all very organized; radical unions like the SEIU are behind the coordinated mayhem. Keep in mind these are protests against violence. Supposedly.

Police and demonstrators have clashed on various occasions. What’s interesting is that some national news reports are portraying the police in an unfavorable light, while reports from local news outlets are praising their restraint and appear grateful for their protection. Any agenda here from the national level?

When President Obama was asked about these protests, and their blatant incivility, he responded that this is what America is all about—allowing people to protest. Mr. President, there is such a thing as genuine protest, and there is also anarchy. I’m not surprised by his response, though. After all, he was a community organizer.

What a contrast with Tea Party rallies. While the national media ignore the radical dimension associated with the current protests, they pounced on any display of dignified protest against the socialist drift in our nation. They sought to explain the Tea Party as a group of angry white people. They talked of the potential for violence in the movement. They didn’t seem to recognize the many faces of the Tea Party, which included minorities fed up with the trashing of our Constitution and the massive debt being accumulated. They searched for violence in the movement but couldn’t find any. Yet the theme remains: these are dangerous people.

I’ve been to a Tea Party event. It was calm and purposeful. The speakers were coherent and principled. They didn’t resort to mindless slogans and chants. I’ve also spoken to a couple of 9/12 Project groups, which are in sync with the Tea Party. The goal of these groups is not to agitate on the streets, call for the killing of government officials with which they disagree, and promote violence. Rather, they seek to educate the public on constitutional thinking. They are performing a public service.

We need to keep in mind the worldview of the majority of our national media. They are in lockstep with the policies of the current administration and are actively working for Obama’s reelection.

The old saying remains true: freedom does require eternal vigilance on our part. I applaud the efforts of Americans who work to reestablish our foundations.

Obama & Constitutional Law

A recent public opinion poll taken right after the oral arguments at the Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of Obamacare shows a rather high favorable view of the Court. Analysts say this could be related to the pointed questioning the Obama administration’s solicitor general received by some of the justices. By most accounts, they shredded his arguments. In his defense, he was trying to defend the indefensible constitutionally.

I’ve often stated my resistance to government by opinion polls, and I remain steadfast in that position. Yet it is comforting at times to see the general public waking up to some of the travesties that have been promoted as constitutional. In this case, the Obama administration is attempting to use the Commerce Clause of the Constitution as covering for its unprecedented power grab. This is a classic example of twisting the document’s meaning into nonsense and, in the process, shredding the document itself.

Then we have the spectacle of the administration touting the president’s prowess at interpreting the Constitution, citing his time as a constitutional law professor. Let’s get one thing straight: he was never a fulltime professor, but only an adjunct brought in to teach occasionally. I have nothing against adjuncts; they are essential. In fact, I was one once. But just being an adjunct professor teaching a law class once in a while is not the supreme qualification for being an expert. Further, most of his law education was of the “living Constitution” variety, where the original wording and intent are discarded. Consequently, I’m not impressed by anyone proclaiming Obama as an authority on constitutional law. From what I’ve been able to glean of his take on the Constitution, I’d say he’s anything but an authority. He has some more lessons to learn, starting with the established maxim that the Supreme Court can rule on the constitutionality of a federal law.

May the Court, in this instance, rule wisely.

Being Constitutional

The Supreme Court has made its decision on Obamacare. What, you didn’t hear about that? Well, that’s because it’s not public yet, and won’t be until June, I understand. But behind closed doors, the result is in. The justices are now busy writing their opinions; I predict we’ll have a number of those opinions offered since the Court will be split in its reasoning. Some of that reasoning will be sharp and constitutional; the rest will be shallow and political. Hopefully, constitutionalism will prevail and the entire law will be overturned, not just the individual mandate.

President Obama yesterday lectured the Court from afar by stating categorically that the attempt to set up a government-controlled healthcare system was undeniably constitutional, and that any decision to the contrary was judicial activism. He said conservatives should understand this since they are always decrying judicial activism.

Let me get this straight: declaring a law unconstitutional that took over 1/6 of the American economy and forced people to buy a product is judicial activism? No, Mr. President, that’s the proper role of the Court—reining in an extension of government power into an area where it has no authority to act.

That’s called being constitutional.

But I wouldn’t expect the president to understand that concept. He’s no James Madison.

Presidents take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, not to ignore it.

Fiscal Sanity & the Rule of Law

The administration did its best to convince the Supreme Court that Obamacare is constitutional. That’s called trying to make something out of nothing. When there’s nothing in the Constitution that can reasonably be construed as support for this type of government interference, one would hope the attempt to defend it would prove impossible. Nothing is certain, though, when four liberal ideologues refuse to budge. At least that’s what I expect. Yet even liberal commentators are saying the Court may overturn this “signature” piece of legislation. We’ll have to wait until June to find out. Perhaps there’s a fantasy swirling in the mind of our president about how he wishes he could have been present at the writing of the Constitution. He could have made it a “better” instrument:

You see, only a liberal/progressive/socialist really cares about people. Plans such as the one proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan to move us in the direction of fiscal responsibility emanate from evil, uncaring hearts:

You could say it all depends on one’s perspective, but I hope most Americans would grasp the concept that a life preserver is not a weapon.

Meanwhile, we await the return of fiscal sanity and the rule of law. Will they eventually prevail?

Obamacare & the Constitution

The Obamacare hearings at the Supreme Court continue today. The focus will be on the individual mandate. The Obama lawyers will try to argue that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution gives permission to make everyone buy health insurance. If the Court goes along with that argument, it opens the door for the government to force us to buy anything it considers “good” for us: non-fat foods, Chevy Volts, non-incandescent light bulbs—oh, wait, I seem to recall that last one being foisted on us already.

One can only hope the Court will actually look at the Constitution this time rather than allow ideology to prevail, but I will be shocked if any of the four liberal justices break from their preconceived position that the text of the Constitution is outdated. It would be nice if they would pay attention to the intent of the Founders, but I fear their insights will be barred from entry:

Fortunately, the lawyers arguing against the bill will be making constitutional arguments. I pray for their success in convincing any swing votes, if they exist.

Most of the country, though, doesn’t know much about the constitutional limitations on the federal government. They just assume the government can do as it wishes. We are constitutionally illiterate, on the whole. But they will soon feel the effects of the law if it isn’t overturned:

At least public opinion polls—not normally the fount of all wisdom—reveal a rising tide against Obamacare. Even Obama has to acknowledge this. When his signature legislation had its second birthday the other day, there was no celebration; Obama himself remained mute about it. So where was he?

Ah, yes, his favorite activity.

And what are the Republicans threatening to offer as the challenger to Obamacare politically? The man who inspired Obamacare to begin with.

I can agree with that sigh.