Constitution Day: A holiday rooted in irony

It was a warm September day in 1787. After months of deliberation, the Founding Fathers finally came to a consensus about a new government structure for the United States.

Now, 226 years later, it is the oldest constitution in the world. In its honor, the U.S. government recognizes Constitution Day annually. And so does WKU.

Beginning Sept. 13, the political science department is hosting Constitution Week, filled with several events to celebrate the famous document, said Jeff Budziak, an assistant professor in the department.

“These events are for us to celebrate and to also gear people up for the election,”
Budziak said.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 3:30 in Cherry Hall, history professor Patti Minter of the history department is hosting a discussion of equal protection laws and separation of powers, focusing on transgender bathroom laws.

A day later, on Wednesday, Sept. 14, Budziak is hosting a segment in the Pizza and Politics series focused on the future of the Supreme Court based on the 2016 election.

The main event in WKU’s celebration of Constitution Week will come on Constitution Day, Friday, Sept. 16, when the political science department hosts a birthday party for the Constitution from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the lawn outside Grise Hall. The party will include food, discussions and a voter registration drive.

You may be thinking, “Why is WKU so excited to celebrate the Constitution?”

While some may simply enjoy celebrating the document, Constitution Day is also a federally-mandated holiday. That means the federal government requires every educational institution that receives federal funding to provide some sort of promotional program for the Constitution. If they don’t, their funding will be revoked.

While civic education may be important, federally requiring Constitutional education may actually violate the document this holiday celebrates.

The 10th Amendment dictates the federal government cannot encroach on the powers of the states. Because education is left to the states, this holiday’s requirement may overstep those boundaries.

“Even if the path we go to isn’t my favorite, the actual outcome is a valuable thing,” Budziak said. “Especially as we are wading into the election season, maybe this [celebration] is more timely than ever.”

The majority of U.S. citizens don’t know what is outlined in the Constitution, according to a 2011 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

That fact alone demonstrates a reason for this holiday. Perhaps American students should be taught more frequently about this document. When people don’t know or care about the Constitution, our country can become fertile ground for government corruption.

Constitution Day’s legitimacy may be questionable, but it seems its intentions are pure: to teach students about the document that defines our country, our freedoms and our lives.

This week, sit back, read the Constitution, celebrate an important American document and know that students at educational institutions all over the country are doing the same.