Category: CIVICS

7 Dirtiest Words

UNPOPULAR OPINIONS? Call me hypersensitive or prude or soft or a “libtard” or any name you want.

I saw a stranger with an “F Your Feelings” sweatshirt in a convenience store today- actually it was kind of cleaned up because instead of the 4-letter interjection, it featured a stick figure thrusting it’s pelvis against the letter Y in the word “your.” You get the idea. I’m sorry, but this is why we’re so screwed as a society right now (pun totally intended).

Left or right, religious or secular- we’re selfish & insensitive. We don’t give an f-bomb about anyone but ourselves and our team/tribe anymore. I guess I’m an outlier because I believe in transformation rather than transaction. People over possessions, process over product and especially the power of love over a love of power. If this makes me radical or sinister, I guess I’ll have to live with that. 


FDR & Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms

In the famous conclusion of his January 1941 speech, FDR named four “essential human freedoms”—freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship as one chooses, freedom from fear (of armed aggression, for example), and freedom from want (for destabilizing “social and economic problems,” he pointed out, had birthed the appalling political movements that now threatened American security). In each case the president pointedly added that these freedoms must prevail everywhere in the world.

Each year before Thanksgiving, I have students listen to a portion of FDR’s Speech.


What Do Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms Mean to You? Consider Norman Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms paintings, then interpret each of FDR’s 4 freedoms for yourself, your own way.

Choose just one, or all four. Use large paper (12×16). I permit students to choose whether or not they want to use paint, colored pencil, or marker to color their posters once they’ve drawn them, depending on the age level, teachers can customize this to be full-blown paintings, collages, digital collages, or just sketchbook or art journal prompts.

At one time, I taught both 8th Grade Civics and 8th Grade Art- obviously this is a great way to integrate disciplines or develop cross-curricular projects. History/Social Studies students (including HS, not just MS) could analyze the text of the speech before creating an artwork. When I taught Civics, I liked to have students scan Eleanor Roosevelt’s preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) for influence of or allusion to her late husband’s speech.

Excerpt from President Roosevelt’s 1941 Annual Message to Congress

September 2018 | CBS SUNDAY MORNING–Norman Rockwell’s The Four Freedoms Today

Grading Rubric

Objective/CriteriaGrading Scale
Subject & Elements of Design
(Careful Observation & Accurate Depiction of source materials)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Formal Principles of Design
(Arrangement of elements effectively capture, maintain and direct attention of viewers)
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Content, Meaning & Impact Invoke Mood, Feeling Evoke Memories, Associations Provoke Reactions, Thought, Discussion, Action
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement
Improving with or adapting to materials used.
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1Needs Improvement
Engaging, Persisting, Planning, EXPRESSION, Observing, Reflection, & Pushing yourself
3 Good
2 Satisfactory
1 Needs Improvement


  • VA:Cr1.2.8a – Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-day life using a contemporary practice of art and design.
  • VA:Cr2.1.8a – Demonstrate willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of art-making or designing.
  • VA:Cr2.3.8a – Select, organize, and design images and words to make visually clear and compelling presentations.
  • VA:Cr3.1.8a – Apply relevant criteria to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for a work of art or design in progress.
  • VA:Re7.1.8a – Explain how a person’s aesthetic choices are influenced by culture and environment and impact the visual image that one conveys to others.
  • VA:Re7.2.8a – Compare and contrast contexts and media in which viewers encounter images that influence ideas, emotions, and actions.
  • VA:Re8.1.8a – Interpret art by analyzing how the interaction of subject matter, characteristics of form and structure, use of media, art-making approaches, and relevant contextual information contributes to understanding messages or ideas and mood conveyed.
  • VA:Cr2.3.IIa – Redesign an object, system, place, or design in response to contemporary issues.

Dream Prayer

I DARE you to pray this today-


Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of
segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial
injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God’s
Dear Lord, let the dream of little children one day living in
a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by their character come true.
Lord Jesus, let freedom ring, let it ring from every
tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, help us to speed up that day when all of Your children,
black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and
Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of
the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God
Almighty, we are free at last.”

In Jesus name,

Who was MLK?

Rev. Michael King Sr. grew up a poor, Black sharecropper in Georgia at the turn of the last century. As a young man he moved to Atlanta, fell in love with a Baptist preacher’s daughter and eventually followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps and studied to become a minister.

In 1934, Rev. Michael King, Sr., attended the World Baptist Alliance in Berlin. He was so moved by the teachings and sacrifice of sixteenth-century German church reformer Martin Luther, that he changed his name from Michael King to Michael Luther King and finally Martin Luther King. His teen aged son chose to change his name to Martin Luther King Jr, after his father.

MLK Grew up in segregated Georgia during the Great Depression, but went on to become one of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement. Now, on the third Monday in January, Americans observe the legacy of his contributions with a national holiday.

King Jr. studied sociology in college and then went to seminary to become a pastor like his father and grandfather. While serving in Alabama, Pastor King became involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group of mostly Black pastors committed to achieving racial equality through non-violence.

Many people either think of Martin Luther King Jr. as just a Black hero, with nothing to offer to the rest of us. Others take him for granted as just another pop-cultural icon along with JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. For me, he is a hero of the faith. A courageous Christian leader like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who stood up to Adolf Hitler and the NAZIs.

One of my favorite books that I wish everyone on Earth would read is Dr. King’s “Strength to Love,” (1963) in which he explores the parable of the good Samaritan and what it means to love your neighbor and love your enemies, as Jesus taught. In it, he also wrote about the parables of the friend who knocked on his neighbor’s door at midnight and the rich fool who hoarded his wealth in his barns, only to have his soul required of him that night. King addresses fear and speculated on what sort of epistle the Apostle Paul might have written to America.

I think that even in mostly white, rural Iowa, it would be good to consider some of the lessons of Dr. King today in 2008. We forget that he was a Baptist minister like Mike Huckabee and a PhD who could analyze domestic and foreign and military policies just like like a Barack Obama or a Bill Clinton. We forget that King was a Nobel Peace Prize winner like Al Gore.

I recently found a speech that he made about Vietnam back in 1967 on April 4, 1967 at a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City. He was assassinated a year later on April 4, 1968 trying to help striking garbagemen in Memphis, Tennessee.

People wondered why a civil rights leader was suddenly turning into a war protester.

“I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for ‘the brotherhood of man.’…but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?”

After three decades of supply-side economics, Americans have seen the high-tech bubble burst, and the real estate bubble burst, the stock market repeatedly crash and rebound, more millionaires than ever before yet a disappearing middle class, disappearing manufacturing jobs, jobs shipped over seas, high gas prices yet record profits for oil companies and a widening gap between the super rich and the working poor. No wonder so many voters in Iowa responded to the messages of John Edwards as he railed on big corporations and unfeeling insurance companies.
King talked about our problem with consumerism in his 1967 speech too.

“…We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”

Black , White, Red, Yellow, or Brown, Dr. King’s teaching may have as much to say to us today, as it did forty years ago.

Strength to Love

Nearly every year I re-read a book of sermons by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called “Strength to Love,” from 1963. Many people would be surprised by what a Biblical teacher King was because we tend to take him for granted as a cultural icon or a Black leader or a political activist.

One chapter in particular struck me as something that we could all use these days. Let’s face it, this is a time of high anxiety and stress for many of us. Governor Culver recently tried to reassure Iowans that we’re in better shape than the nation as a whole to face the coming recession. But come on, things have been getting hard for all of us for a long time.

Wars, stagnant wages, increasing costs of living especially gas, food, heating fuel and health insurance, talk of climate change, cultural change, and global competition have all left us a little frazzled. Perhaps you’re finding that just the challenges of daily life, let alone personal tragedies and crises are wearing you down.

Rev. King talked about Jesus’ parable of the man who knocks on his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for bread found in Luke 11:5-8.

“The traveler asks for three loaves of bread,” Dr. King wrote. The three things we need most are faith, hope and love.

“In a generation of so many colossal disappointments, men have lost faith in God, faith in man, and faith in the future…in the midst of staggering disillusionment, many cry for the bread of faith.”

“There is also a deep longing for the bread of hope.” Dr. King continued, “In the early years of this century many people did not hunger for this bread. The days of the first telephones, automobiles, and airplanes gave them a radiant optimism. They worshiped at the shrine of inevitable progress. They believed that every new scientific achievement lifted man to higher levels of perfection.”

But as we all know, came WWI and WWII and the Cold War. We realized that technology won’t produce a futuristic utopia. We may have more than enough food to eradicate world hunger, but greed and corruption prevent us from ever being able to get the food to who needs it. The twentieth century left mankind wounded and disillusioned.

King lamented that “the light of hope went out, and they roamed wearily in the dark chambers of pessimism. Many concluded that life has no meaning… But even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.”

If anything, we’ve learned too well that life is not fair. Some people don’t even see the point in trying anymore.

Finally, MLK pointed out what we are most starved for.

“There is the deep longing,” King wrote, “for the bread of love. Everybody wishes to love and to be loved. He who feels that he is not loved feels that he does not count. Much has happened in the modern world to make men feel that they do not belong. Living in a world which has become oppressively impersonal, many of us have come to feel that we are little more than numbers.”

We all need to find ways to get out of bed in the middle of the night and come to our neighbor’s aid. We all need to try to feed others in anyway we can but we should also remember where to turn when times get worst.

Luke 11: 5-8 has a man asking to borrow bread from a neighbor, but in Luke 11:1-4, Jesus teaches the disciples the Lord’s Prayer and in 11:9-13, He urges us to pray and ask God’s help for anything we need. If we need faith, hope, or love, all we have to do as ask, seek, or knock.

Saying BLM Doesn’t Mean you Hate All Cops

Supporting Black Lives doesn’t mean hating all law enforcement officers or opposing “Blue” Lives.

Supporting criminal justice reform; for excessive force, for for-profit corporate contracts, for over-militarization, for more, longer & better training, for excessive incarceration, and yes- for systemic, institutionalized racism does not mean you’re “anti-police.”

Wearing a mask in public & being careful & concerned about Covid is not a “liberal” thing, it’s certainly not a hoax.

Opposing & criticizing Trump isn’t anti-American or sour grapes for a Democrats. Republicans, including President Bush, & several Generals & former Secretaries of State- most Republicans, a few Trump appointees oppose him.

Sharing our positions & opinions and responding to, disagreeing with, and even calling-out errors in each other’s opinions DOESN’T mean anyone hates you or you’re “bad,” or that you’re dumb or always wrong about everything. It means you’re in community. If you love your community, you want it to improve. You want it to be the best it can be.

I have several former students who are cops. I carr about their safety & well being. One of them is one of my dearest friends. I had an uncle who was a cop. I always admired him. I also have a nephew who protested recently. I’m tremendously proud of them.

I also have lots of former students who are Black. Some of whom are are very dear to me. I’d say at least one of them is another of my dearest friends. And several friends in inter-racial marriages. I cannot ignore their fears and concerns and the experiences they’ve shared (and how many they’ve never shared).

These are difficult times. Please be patient & kind with each other. Maybe be even MORE kind & patient with those you disagree with. They don’t hate you, they aren’t attacking YOU. They’re passionate about their beliefs. They’re resisting your positions & opinions, not you as a person, not everyone like you or EVERYTHING you know, believe in or stand for- just what you embrace that they see as hurtful, hateful or divisive.

Isn’t that what you think you hate about them? Not THEM, but some of their ideas? Not WHO they are but a lot of what they seem to stand for that you disagree with or are afraid of or that makes you mad or doesn’t make sense to you. Right?

Two things to try: Ask yourself WHY are hey so passionate about their views? WHY are the opposed to my views? Now ask WHY am I so bent outta shape by what they support? And WHY exactly am I so zealous about what I think. Is there ANY chance whatsoever that maybe either of us don’t know everything?

Words & Pictures Matter

Dear White Friends

Police chiefs in Virginia & in Flint Michigan JOINED protesters. Police chief in Santa Cruz, California took a knee. Not all cops are racist, but we do still have a problem as a nation with systemic inequality in our criminal justice system. And SOME cops in some departments definitely have a problem with excessive force.

It’s not as simple as choosing to “support the blue line” or join “black lives matter” and assuming everyone on the other side is completely wrong, evil or un American.

Now before you hate me, I’m not writing this post to start an argument and I’d rather you unfollow me or mute me than unfriend or block me. I try not to comment on every post I ever disagree with from people.

Part of our problem is assuming that every issue only has 2 sides.

I have friends (former students) that are cops. My uncle was a cop. But that doesn’t make every single cop perfect.

I have a lot of Black & Latino friends & friends in inter-racial marriages. (again, mostly former students) and they are scared for their children. They tell me racial profiling is real. I believe them. I’m too white, male & middle class to have experienced it myself.

Looting & vandalism is wrong, but so is being calloused and blind to real problems. We’re all a little racist, which is also wrong.

Somehow we all need to figure out how to be patient, kind & humble enough to allow each other to disagree without hating and dehumanizing each other.

I’ve read way too much MLK to be trying to tell people to calm down and be patient who are angry and want justice.

Perhaps I’m appealing more to the white people and rural friends & neighbors I know who have no patience or pity for rioters. 400 years of discrimination and abuse that we’d like to think was resolved & forgotten 50 years ago doesn’t just go away.

Just as we want to know that not all cops are racist, guess what? Not all people of color are looters, vandals, rioters or even protesters.

And remember people didn’t like peaceful, non violent forms of protest like taking a knee at the National Anthem. That was not anti-military, anti-veterans, or anti-America. It was supposed to draw attention about racial inequality in the criminal justice system. What if we had listened & encouraged that kind of protest? I wonder if there’d be the crisis there is in cities all across the country this week?

Annotated Gettysburg Address

 Listen to ‘Maladjustedd’ Podcast; Season 2 Episode 4

A Few Facts About the Battle of Gettysburg

  • After a great victory over Union forces at Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania in late June 1863
  • The Confederacy hoped that by bringing the war into the northern states, northern politicians would abandon the war and normalize the South’s secession.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, is considered a major turning point of the American Civil War. 
  • Estimated 51,112 casualties in this one battle, 31K Union, 39K Confederate; he bloodiest single battle of the entire war

A Few Facts About the Speech

  • Lincoln gave it November 19, 1863. He’d been working on drafts for a few days. The legend that he wrote it on the back of an envelope came from the fact that he continued to make notes and revisions even on the train right from Washington to Pennsylvania.
  • Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg
  • A few weeks after the burial process started, in October, a dedication ceremony was planned for the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.  The cemetery committee chose Massachusetts statesman and orator Edward Everett to deliver the main speech. The committee asked President Abraham Lincoln to deliver “a few appropriate remarks.”  At the November 19 ceremony, Everett spoke for two hours on the causes of war and the events that led to the Battle of Gettysburg.  

Lincoln’s Speech with Mr. Mallory’s Commentary

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

A “score” is 20 years, so 4 score and 7 is 87. 1863-1776=87, he’s talking about the Declaration of Independence. The important part isn’t the date it’s the “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Conceived in liberty means that the United States was based on principles of self-government and limits of law and order even on our rulers. That was the British tradition of rights and freedoms going back to the Magna Carta in 1215 AD. The first part of the Declaration of Independence is a treatise on “Social Contract Theory,” the idea that people agree to set up governments existed to protect our rights and basic needs together- we enter a contract together. Without spelling it out Lincoln is insinuating that the Southern states had broken that contract and violated the Constitution when they rebelled and left the union, insisting instead on a form of tyrrany, which included slavery.

Which brings us to “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The part of the Declaration which we all remember is “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.” Maybe what Jefferson meant was that American colonists had as much right to self-government at the Dukes and Barons and Aristocrats in the House of Lords in parliament, but Lincoln was now making it clear to the mostly poor immigrants fighting for the Union in the Civil War, that this war wasn’t about federalism vs. antifederalism, Southern politicians had threatened to leave over slavery, they left over slavery, so make not mistake; if we believe that “all men are created equal,” are we willing to fight for it?

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. 

Lincoln wanted to make the stakes clear. If we were willing to just roll over and let the confederacy secede, we didn’t really believe in liberty or equality. That’s why this was a test. It was testing not only whether genuine democracy could work after 87 years, and not only our resolve, but whether we really believed in the principles we’d been claiming to believe in for the last nine decades.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

Thank you Captain obvious. Tell us something we don’t know. It’s printed right here on the program.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. 

Now That’s saying something both humble and profound. It’s not about him. It’s not about Edward Everett or Pennsylvania  Governor Andrew Curtin or the Mayor or town council of Gettysburg or the President and professors of Gettysburg Seminary or the members of the committee to establish a memorial there. It was about the thousands of soldiers killed, mortally wounded, injured and captured there. Soldiers fighting to keep the United States alive, fighting to keep liberty and equality alive. That’s who made it a holy place.

Dedicate, consecrate, and hallow are all synonyms. He’s using repetition for effect here. To make something holy (hallow) is to say that it’s special. To be consecrated means to be sacred- revered. Lincoln’s deliberately using religious sounding language. To be dedicated is to be set aside for a special purpose. This would no longer be farmland or wilderness, it would be a cemetery. And not just a cemetery, a special one for military dead. A place that needed to be remembered- an event that needed to be remembered. But Lincoln was about to go on to make a point that it wasn’t even the soldiers that we need to remember, but we need to remember the cause that that died for- and to take up that cause.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 

On the one hand- little did he know right? That more than 150 years later people all over the world remember, and study this little 2 minute speech. On the other hand, had you ever heard of Edward Everet before I mentioned him a little bit ago?

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 

Lincoln wants us to be dedicated, consecrated, hallowed- not to get too creepy or too religious but to be “baptised” in the blood of the fallen soldiers at Gettysburg. To be commissioned for a mission, to be initiated into the sacred brotherhood of knights fighting for the same things they were conceived in and dedicated to. Woof! That;s heady stuff.

This is more than just a coach’s pep talk at halftime in the locker room to a team losing an important game. This is a call to something holy. Something akin to saving the world. Something our future depends on. He’s evoking destiny itself. 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion 

Devotion is another religious sounding word. To be devoted means absolute commitment. A devout believer isn’t casual. They’re disciples, pilgrims, apostles. They’re on a mission for God. And what’s the cause? Just sending Lee’s army back to Virginia? Restoring the Union? Punishing treason? Or was it something bigger? Was it preventing the death of the nation? 

Remember what Lincoln said the war was testing? Whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long survive. Conceived how? Dedicated to what?

“Conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln’s calling us to fight for liberty and equality. Principles worth dying for.

— that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain 

Resolve: to decide firmly on a course of action. But not just an empty promise like a New Year’s resolution. To die in vain- without success or a result, to die for no good reason. If we’re serious about a memorial (or about Memorial Day), it’s not enough to acknowledge their deaths or just admire their cause. If we aren’t also dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, then it doesn’t really matter that they died. If we’re waving the Confederate flag, why’d they die? If we think we’re better than everybody else because of our skin color- which, by the way, we didn’t choose, what was the point?

— that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

For impact sake, I should let Lincoln have the last word, but I want to mention that Lincoln, again is using religious imagery, he’s evoking resurrection. He’s ending on a high note- giving us hope that that nation, that’s being tested whether or not it can long survive- it can live again, and it’s new life can be stronger, more robust and more honest- living up to its promises of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, not just for wealthy land owning white males, but for everybody.

Is it any wonder than 100 years later in 1963 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would invoke both the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln in his famous “I have a dream speech,” where he shares that he had a dream that one day this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed. Again, religious language, a creed is a statement of belief- what it is you hold self-evident; like, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”

Finally, I want to let you know what I’ve tried to teach my Civics classes for the last twelve years- That “OFthe people, BY the people, FOR the people” bit- the one part everybody seems to remember without even trying to memorize the Gettysburg Address? Please try remembering this about it:

How can government be OF the people? Because you don’t have to be born into nobility or aristocracy. If “all men are created equal,” that means, as British philosopher John Locke postulated, we’re ALL capable of governing; whether that’s voting, having input or actually running for office.

How can government be BY the people? Because that’s our right. To say that we’re “endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights” means that we all have the inherent prerogative to participate and be represented, to have some influence. That’s the true meaning of liberty- not that we can do whatever we want whenever we want, but that we are free from any one person or segment of society controlling all the rest of us entirely. 

How can government be FOR the people? In practice, this is really hard, but in theory- look at Thomas Jefferson’s “Social Contract Theory;” “…to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the government.” John Adams and James Madison made similar statements, that the very purpose of government was to protect the rights and well being of its people, not to preserve the power and privilege of some ruling class as had become the case in most of Europe by 1776. It’s not us and them anymore. We ARE our government. How can we be here for eachother?

I guess that’s another lesson. But don’t stop asking yourself;

“How can we ensure that these dead would not have died in vain?”

And “How can we make sure that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth?”

I don’t know about you, but personally, I think it’s be being devoted to the same cause to which they gave their last full measure of devotion- by being dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” 

I know that not everyone agrees with me, but that’s America.

It’s All a Matter of Interpretation

SIDEBAR | Interpretation

We’ve talked about this one in class already, but it bears repeating AND, it may be worth discussing at home with your parents.

Generally, is someone believes that the government can only do what the Constitution specifies (enumerated powers; Art I Sec 8) and no more, they are said to have a strict constriction or strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Whereas if one believes that the necessary & proper clause gives the Constitution flexibility enough that you can interpret it to give implied powers to the government, depending on the circumstances, that’s called a loose interpretation or loose construction. 

To make things more complicated, there are people who believe that you should try to interpret the Constitution based on the framers’ original intent. That’s messy because as we know, those attending the constitutional convention in 1789 didn’t all agree on everything. They had different agendas, different interests, and different interpretations of previous laws and documents throughout history. And… guess what? Different historians may interpret each framer’s original intentions differently.

Here’s where it gets even more complicated. Who gets to interpret the Constitution? We all do.

  1. Lawmakers (Senators & Representatives) interpret it different ways when they write laws.
  2. Presidents and members of the executive branch interpret the laws & Constitution they’re expected to carry out differently that their predecessors.
  3. Ultimately the Supreme Court has the responsibility to interpret laws and executive policies and actions and compare them to how they interpret the Constitution. This is called “judicial review” and we’ll talk more about it (if&)when we get to Article III and the Judicial Branch.
  4. State and Local officials all have their interpretations too.
  5. ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ the voters, media consumers, people who exercise our First Amendment rights to have and share our opinions, citizens all have our own interpretations too. 

And we don’t all agree do we? In a classroom with 20 people in it- all living in Iowa, you’ll have Hawkeye fans, Cyclone fans, even Husker fans- but you’ll also have people who don’t care about college sports much or at all. Some people are about willing to fight over whether or not pineapple should be a pizza topping.

Remember, everyone’s life experiences are different, therefore their needs, interests, worries, fears, dreams, aspirations, goals and values are different. That doesn’t mean they’re 100% wrong. It doesn’t make them 100% right either.

Apartment dwellers may care about rent while farmers care about property taxes. Parents care about schools and daycare, while single people may care more about entertainment and sports. Retired people may be more concerned about pensions, Social Security or medicare than the rest of us. Rural/Urban, North/South, Coastal/Midwest, Manufacturing/Agriculture, we all have different ways of understanding issues and different points of view. 

Sometimes we change our minds about things when we learn somehting or know someone that influences our opinions.

A HUGE example from American history is slavery. In 1857 the Supreme Court’s decision on the Dred Scott v. Sandford case determined that slavery had to be permitted in every state because slaves were property and the 5th Amendment prohibits governments from confiscating property. Fortunately, in 1865 the 13th Amendment prohibited slavery and in 1868 the 14th Amendment made clear that African-Americans are equal citizens, not property.

Take any of the principles found in the Preamble to the Constitution and you can interpret each differently.

Perfect UnionONE National Govt. NO States“Layer Cake” Federalism
Justice“Community policing,” walking the beat, getting to know their neighborhoods.Armored personnel carriers & assault weapons like the military
Domestic TranquilityRestrict public protests & rallies to prevent violenceTeach about diversity, inclusion & tolerance
Common DefensePreemtive military strikes, increased defense spendingCooperating with INTERPOL, intelligence gathering, economic sanctions, diplomacy
General WelfareBlanket “shelter-in-place” orders nationwide, developing plans & protocols, cooperation between the CDC & the WHO, maditory vacinationsUnregulated Free-market economics, having state and local governments responsible for health & social issues
Blessings of LibertyLess government intrusionLaws meant to protect rights & equality

PLEASE keep in mind, those are the only possible interpretations of each- they aren’t even “liberal v. conservative” interpretations, just hypothetical ones.

Can you think of some issues either in history or current events, either on the national or state/local levels where you know that people disagree? Where some of your friends disagree? Maybe even where members of your own family disagree? Can you imagine anything that might change your own mind about those issues? Why/Why not? How could you respectfully try to persuade others to your point of view rather than just arguing? Where is there common ground where you could agree or seek compromise? What are areas where you can respectfully agree to disagree and continue to get along without ending your relationship?

Ask your parents or grandparents if there are any issues that they’ve changed their minds about since they were your age. What helped them think differently?

There’s a popular Facebook post going around lately that challenges you to list 10 things that everyone else seems to like, but you don’t (even if it’s unpopular). Talk with your parents or friends about things that are popular that you dislike or disagree with. Why do you feel the way you do? Find out how they feel about those same things. What do you have in common that you didn’t realize you did? Is there anything that they like or dislike that you “don’t get” that surprises you?

Please post your questions, comments, and examples in the comments section below- but please avoid fights & attacks. Inappropriate or abusive comments will be removed. “Error of Opinion May Be Tolerated Where Reason Is Left Free To Combat It,”~Jefferson