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Constitution on Campus


Last month I talked about the first Amendment in an article.  I will expound a bit more on free speech based on personal experience.


I had some first had experience with the Constitution this past month.  I went down to ASU.  I had the idea that I would pass out Pocket Constitutions.  I contacted the student organization YAL (Young Americans for Liberty) to see if I could get them on board.  Their president was very supportive and helped me organize it.


I had brought a 500 box of pocket constitutions and ended up handing out a lot of them.  There were many people that said they weren’t interested in just taking it, and some said they had never read it. I can’t say it really surprised me, but it is telling.  If students aren’t learning about it, how can we expect them to know what their rights are?  Fortunately there were a few at least who talked about how they got similar constitutions in school, many of them were from charter schools dedicated to it.  So many students were in a hurry, or claimed to be, a lot of it is apathy I think.  Those that did have time I would direct to the student who I was working with who had made a quiz to test their knowledge.  He told me he thought he may have made the quiz too hard although I think most of the questions were things they should have known.


I got some various reactions from people. I had a conversation with an older man who lamented some of the issues in the world and essentially applauded my efforts.


One student asked me what side it benefited.  I said it was for all sides.  He pointed out how people tend to only support the parts that they like.  I agreed.  It seems like if there is a part of the Constitution that befits them they will support them in as much as they can personally benefit from it, but ignore the rest.  This can be affected by who is in power at the time on what people are willing to allow.  If you don’t apply it consistently, how can you ensure someone else won’t selectively use only certain parts and not defend your rights where they don’t think it applies?  A precedent once set, is hard to reverse.


At the end, another student had said he thought the Constitution was too hard to amend.  However, that is essentially the point.   It was not meant to be amended too easily.  The fact that it can be amended is one of the qualities of it, and one thing that was implemented that was even more difficult under the Articles of Confederacy, but it shouldn’t be too easily amended so as to not be able to change on a whim depending on what power is in office.  We certainly have had Amendments that were sorely needed after the bill of rights, like the 13th  that made slavery illegal, or the 20th.


Have had issues with free speech on college campuses before, having to deal with “free speech zones”, you would have to get the proper permits and the like, but I didn’t have any real issues here.   While it is understandable to ensure that you aren’t blocking people’s ability to walk and not inside disrupting classes, in the public area, should the whole public are be a “free speech zone”?  In some ways I do see a healthy cynicism among many some young people, but it can so often be misapplied.


There have been many tests of American’s knowledge and generally it is pretty lousy. I think if you talked to a random person on the street, it wouldn’t be much different than when Jay Leno would ask people questions on the street.  So I think we have an issue of ignorance. People just aren’t being taught about what our rights are and so it is no wonder they have no idea what is actually constitutional and what isn’t and in many cases, don’t even care.  My advice is to be educated and know your rights.