Monday, September 17, 2007 is Constitution Day in the United States. Educational institutions and federal executive employees observe the day with some sort of edifying lesson, program, or distributed materials about our Constitution. The Constitution Day observance was established in a section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Public Law 108-447. The PDF version of this lengthy public law is available through GPO Access. The Constitution Day language is near the end of the law, in Division J – Other Matters.
An excerpt is reprinted here for your convenience:
SEC. 111. (a) The head of each Federal agency or department shall-
(1) provide each new employee of the agency or department with educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution as part of the orientation materials provided to the new employee; and
(2) provide educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution to each employee of the agency or department on September 17 of each year.
(b) 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.
Following the law’s passage, the Education Department issued a “Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year,” 70 Fed. Reg. 29727 (May 24, 2005). The notice applies to educational institutions receiving federal funding from the Department of Education.
President Bush issued his proclamation for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, Constitution Week, 2007 on August 22.
For Constitution Day planners, this column links to a variety of web resources for online versions of the United States Constitution and related teaching materials.
Constitution Online Versions and Related Historical Documents
There are many free, online sources for the Constitution and related historical documents. Among them:
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy: iCon, The Constitution for the iPod
GPO Access: Constitution Main Page
The Government Printing Office produces the Constitution in several formats, and links to them all here. This page showcases the Congressional Research Service (CRS) publication The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation: Annotations of Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in its 2002 edition with the 2004 supplement. (The site also has the 1992 edition with supplements for 1996, 1998, and 2000.) It can be searched or browsed, and each section has a unique URL for building direct links to the section in HTML or PDF format. GPO also has printed the Constitution in the form of Senate or House documents, and these are available on the same page, in plain text and PDF. PDF versions include The U.S. Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution as Amended, with Unratified Amendments & Analytical Index, and The Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence, Pocket Edition.
Library of Congress: Primary Documents in American History: United States Constitution
The Library of Congress pulls together links to its various online resources, including the Broadsides collection described below, for this one-stop collection guide. One highlight is the set of digitized volumes from Max Farrand’s The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Farrand’s Records includes the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, and the notes and letters of James Madison and other participants. (Note that the American Memory Collections provide a “Document ID” at the bottom of each item record; the URL can be used for linking purposes.) This site includes the digitized papers of James Madison from the Library’s Manuscript Division, links to other historic collections, and a selective bibliography for adult and younger readers.
Library of Congress: Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention Broadsides Collection
Part of the Library’s American Memory offerings, this digitized collection holds hundreds of documents relating to the work of the Continental Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. It features an early printing of the Constitution. The Broadsides Collection page also links to supplemental teaching material. The web presentation “To Form a More Perfect Union” includes a section on Creating a Constitution, which links to the documents-including the 1787 committee draft of the Constitution-within the context of the historical narrative. The Broadsides page also links to related curriculum material called Collection Connections.
Library of Congress: Federalist Papers on Thomas
The series of essays known as the Federalist Papers was written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison to explain-and to encourage New Yorkers to ratify-the proposed United States Constitution. The essays are often used for guidance in understanding the intentions of those who drafted the Constitution. This HTML version of the Federalist Papers is set up so that each essay can be linked to individually.
National Archives: Charters of Freedom: Constitution of the United States
The Archives presents high resolution images of the fading parchment Constitution and Bills of Rights. (The image files are quite large. For technical tips on using them, see the high resolution downloads page.) This site also features a brief history of the creation of the Constitution, roughly one hundred questions and answers concerning the document and its impact, and biographies of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention.
National Public Radio and New York Times: Justice Learning
The Justice Learning web site includes an interactive Constitution Guide. The site is supported by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with the New York Times Learning Network and NPR’s Justice Talking show.
United States Senate: Reference: The Constitution
This version places each section of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments alongside brief and simple explanations.
Yale Avalon Project: The American Constitution: A Documentary Record
The Avalon Project presents HTML versions of early American historical documents arranged under the following headings: Roots of the Constitution; Revolution and Independence; Credentials of the Members of the Federal Convention; The Constitutional Convention; and Ratification and Formation of the Government. In addition to the Constitution, documents include the English Bill of Rights from 1689; original American state constitutions from 1776; variant texts of plans proposed at the Constitutional Convention; and the ratification documents from individual states.
Constitution Day Teaching Resources
The following web sites offer teaching or program support appropriate for Constitution Day.
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts: Constitution Day – Federal Courts Educational Outreach
Educational content includes Constitution Day discussion topics, “fast facts” on the courts and the Constitution, interactive games, and Bills of Rights case studies and simulations.
Constitutional Rights Foundation: Constitution Day
Lesson plans are available for kindergarten through high school. The Constitutional Rights Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization “dedicated to educating America’s young people about the importance of civic participation in a democratic society,” as stated on the website.
Library of Congress: Constitution Day Resources
The Library of Congress links to its own resources, including lesson plans and Constitution-related “Stories for Kids from America’s Library.”
National Archives: Teaching with Documents: Observing Constitution Day
The Archives provides suggestions for teaching activities. “Lessons by Era” links to historical incidents from 1754 to present, many of which can be tied to Constitutional principles and amendments.
National Archives: Celebrate Constitution Day
This page links to specific events and activities that the Archives has planned for Constitution Day 2007.
National Constitution Center: Centuries of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline
The National Constitution Center is an independent, non-partisan organization. Their web site offers a timeline marking key events in our constitutional history from 1765 to the present. The site has an interactive, Flash-based version for broadband connections and an HTML version for low-bandwidth connections. The Constitution Center site also presents an engaging Interactive Constitution based on The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda R. Monk (New York: Hyperion, 2003).
National Endowment for the Humanities: EDSITEment Constitution Day Lessons
This page features lesson plans and special features appropriate for Constitution Day. EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities. The website links to online lesson plans and educational resources on a variety of subjects.
Office of Personnel Management: Constitution Initiative
OPM set up this web page “to provide Federal Executive Branch agencies and departments resources to support training of their employees on the U.S. Constitution.” One section describes the Constitution’s Link to the Oath of Office taken by federal employees.