In the direction of common sense – Part I

In the direction of common sense.

“This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and form as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.”

–Thomas Jefferson.    

On the cusp of celebrating the independence of the United States of America, our Board of Education announced two summer courses on the Constitution. The timing is entirely a coincidence, but it perfectly frames the argument.

From the outside looking in, independently offered community education classes on the Constitution would use school district classrooms during the summer and after-school hours. This is wholly unremarkable. Similar courses are shared online, in hotel ballrooms and family living rooms across our country. But in Springboro, they engender headlines and panic, calls for Board members’ resignations and threats of legal action. Community education has been raised to scandal status.

Why?

Bringing classes like these onto our campus allows a unique opportunity to offer community education while also inviting families and taxpayers to review potential curriculum.

The hyperbolical efforts by a few to cancel these Constitution classes ironically seek to limit free speech and assembly. But as I work toward listening to all sides and representing the fullness of our school district, I examined the critics’ concerns.  I believe in the goal to teaching the principals of our constitution in a historically accurate manner.  To that end, I am unclear based on the controversy, if these programs can achieve that goal.

Our district’s recent debates over the Constitutional courses, controversial topics including creation and even negotiations point to a serious need for civil, reasoned dialogue and debate. It’s easy for us to look at the parchment of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution and see only the final page in its ideal form. However, history is rich with stories of argument and angst as the founders of our nation came together to form this union of states.

It is time to read and revisit, discuss and debate our founding documents. In doing so, the only religion promoted is what Abraham Lincoln called the “political religion of the nation.” In his speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois in 1838, Lincoln said “As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; . . . Let reverence for laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap—let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges;–let it preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”

It is our common history. The founding documents transcend politics. As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s use their example to guide us in the direction of common sense.

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One Response to In the direction of common sense – Part I

  1. School District Voter says:

    Of almost equal moment to the Declaration of Independence was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Jefferson in 1779. The statute established the separation
    of church and state and the principle of religious toleration:

    Almighty God hath created the mind free… all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do …the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time…
    The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, drafted by Jefferson in 1779 and passed by the Virginia state legislature in 1786.

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