life beyond the well…

Knowing the 1st Amendment vs. Knowing the Simpsons


On Thursday, Mr. Pichan (who is the special education teacher who uses my classroom during my planning period) asked me if I could name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. I thought it was a weird question, but since he’s always asking me history-related questions, I proceeded to name the five freedoms (religion, press, assembly, speech, and petition for redress of greivances). He asked if I knew that more Americans could name the family members of the Simpsons than could name the five freedoms guaranteed by the Frist Amendment.

Well, I thought he was just making this up (as he tends to say some things that aren’t particularly fact based), but then I read this article on MSNBC.

Now I’ve graduated from college and I know that you don’t REALLY need to know the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to be a successful member of society. As a graduate student in social studies education, one of the things that we continuosly struggle with is getting away from fact based learning and attempting to teach our students how to be be great citizens (whatever that means). There is a great emphasis on preparing them by making them great writers and critical thinkers- which are tools that will serve them far longer than being able to recite the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

However, I must say that I also feel that perhaps our educational systems are failing are students. With so much emphasis on testing , we are forcing our teachers to teach our students how to memorize facts, and then perform what we like to call the data dump- dumping all of the information out as soon as the test is over. At the same time, how can we produce effective members of society when they don’t have basic knowledge of the Constitution, which is the basis of our government?

As a part of my methods and curriculum class, we had to produce a teaching rationale- which basically outlines what types of broad ideas and themes you think are important and that you plan to incorporate as a teacher. Part of what I included in my rationale (excerpt below) was that students would gain an understanding of governmental and societal foundations:

Frederick Douglass once stated, “Without struggle, there can be no progress.” It is with that thought that one can begin to think of the foundations of American government and of today’s society; and it is also with that thought that one can continue to imagine the changes to come for the future. The students that I teach will have a sharp understanding of the foundations of government and our society because having this knowledge will allow them to understand the principles upon which our government and our society is based. This knowledge will be demonstrated by their ability to raise questions about governmental actions and other things that take place in society based on the foundations. For example, if there is a situation where they feel that people may be being denied their rights based freedom of speech, my students will be able to question this situation based on what they know of governmental and societal foundations and how that is relevant and fits into today’s society. (From my teaching rationale)
Quite simply- I realize that you don’t need to know ALL the facts. Knowing all the presidents doesn’t really mean anything. But I do feel like there is some basic knowledge that you just might need to be an effective and productive citizen of society. Where do we draw the line? Exactly how much knowledge do we need?


Author: erin.almond

God-chaser. NC native, now planted in Jacksonville, FL. Happily married to a handsome church-planting pastor. I am easily excited by Jesus, education, cupcakes, Moleskine notebooks, and Pepsi. Overwhelmed by God's amazing grace, undeserving of His love and mercy.

4 thoughts on “Knowing the 1st Amendment vs. Knowing the Simpsons

  1. perhaps many of us don’t focus on the rights that we are guaranteed as citizens because history has proven that we aren’t guaranteed those rights.

  2. i definitely agree- but can we really fight for those rights if we don’t know that they exist?

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