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Constitution Day: September 17, 2006
(Celebrated September 15)

   

  Quick Links:  Constitution Day Legal Documents  |  The Constitution and Related Historical Publications  |  Resources for Educators  |  Selected Web Sites  |  Locating Library Materials on the U.S. Constitution in RamCat

page 1 of the Constitution On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. The United States Constitution is the oldest written national constitution still in operation, and many of the nations that have established themselves in the decades since that day in 1787 have turned to this document as a model for their own constitutions. As a document which defines the structure of our Federal government and delineates the rights of the states within the union, and individual citizens within the nation, the Constitution has become a symbol to Americans and to the world of the American government and way of life.

The day is not a federal holiday, but due to a provision added to an appropriations bill in late 2004 by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), teachers, students, and federal executive employees of the United States are all to observe “Constitution Day” this September 17 and every September hereafter with some sort of edifying lesson, program, or distributed materials about our Constitution.

The contents of this web page includes links to those legal documents concerning the establishment of the “Constitution Day” observance. There is a section on the Constitution and related historical publications. Useful resources and web sites for  educators and for those people planning observances are also included.

new2.jpg  On Friday, September 15, 2006, ASU will host its second annual reading of the Constitution. Throughout the day, starting at 8:00 a.m., anyone can come to the main intersection in the University Center, across from the credit union, and help read the US Constitution over and over. Last year over 100 members of the ASU community joined in reading the Constitution, and we read through the Constitution about six times. If you would like to help read, call the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at 2162 to sign up for a time. Each person will read for five minutes. Our goal this year is to get through the Constitution eight times, so we need more readers. A new feature to the celebration this year will be voter registration. There will be a voter registration table there for anyone who has not yet registered to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

  Constitution Day Legal Documents

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Public Law 108-447.
The Constitution Day provisions appear at 118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45 (Section 111). 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:

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.

Other provisions concern amending 36 United States Code 106 to change the name of the day from “Citizenship Day” to “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.”

Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year, 70 Fed. Reg. 29727 (May 24, 2005).
This notice applies to educational institutions receiving federal funding from the Department of Education. It refers to institutions to web resources available from the National Archives and Library of Congress, and states that “when September 17 falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, Constitution Day shall be held during the preceding or following week.”

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  The Constitution and Related Historical Publications

The text of the Constitution and a number of related historical documents are available online from many sources.

GPO Access: Constitution Main Page
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) produces the Constitution in several formats and has made links to them available via GPO Access. 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 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. (A quick look at the same appropriations bill that establishes Constitution Day shows that Congress has designated funds for CRS to “revise and extend the Annotated Constitution.”) Other versions that GPO has printed as Senate or House documents are available in plain text and PDF. These 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 Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention broadsides collections described below, for this one-stop collection guide. Highlighted sites include A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, featuring the journals of the Constitutional Congress and letters of delegates to Congress and Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. Another 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. This site also links to the digitized papers of James Madison from the Library’s Manuscript Division, other historic collections, and a selective bibliography for adult and younger readers.

Library of Congress: Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789
Part of the Library’s American Memory offerings, these digitized collections hold hundreds of documents relating to the work of the Continental Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. The collection features an early printing of the Constitution. 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 site also links to related curriculum material called Collection Connections. 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.

Library of Congress (Thomas): The Federalist Papers
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.

United States Senate: Reference: The Constitution
This version places each section of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments alongside a 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.

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  Resources For Educators

CQ Press in Context: Celebrating Constitution Day, September 18, 2006
In honor of National Constitution Day (September 17, 2005), CQ Press has devoted a section of the CQ Press in Context web site with free access to documents and analytical content related to the U.S. Constitution. This content includes a ready-to-teach, downloadable lesson plan (“The First Amendment and Protection of Student Rights”) written by CQ Press author Maryam Ahranjani and designed specially for teachers who want to take advantage of Constitution Day as a classroom-learning tool.

GPO: Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
Ben’s Guide serves as the educational component of GPO Access, GPO’s service to provide the official online version of legislative and regulatory information. This site provides learning tools for K-12 students, parents, and teachers. These resources will teach how our government works, the use of the primary source materials of GPO Access, and how one can use GPO Access to carry out their civic responsibilities. The Constitution is covered under the section “Historical Documents” in each grade level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12.

new2.jpg  Justice Learning: Constitution Day 2006 Made Easy (It Shaped Our History, It Charts Our Future)
“To help schools comply with the federal requirement to offer an educational program on Constitution Day, the Annenberg Classroom, in cooperation with a prestigious group of educators and media organizations will offer a variety of educational resources for use in high schools, colleges and universities and by federal agencies on Constitution Day.”

new2.jpg  Justice Learning: Justice Learning’s Guide to the Constitution
Justice Learning has created an interactive site that provides information on the Constitution (what it says, what it means, interactive timelines). Look at each article, each amendment, and issues such as affirmative action, civil liberties in wartime, education policy, free speech, and web censorship, among others.

new2.jpg  Justice Talking: Justice Talking Radio Programs
Justice Talking, an award-winning radio program from Penn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center and NPR has selected two of its programs for use on Constitution Day. These programs, hosted by NPR’s Margot Adler, will be available on CD; on-line at www.justicetalking.org or can be downloaded for use on an MP3 player.

  • The Roberts Court: What Can This Term Tell Us About the Future of the Court?
    “This program, taped at the National Constitution Center in July [2006], reviews the highlights of the Supreme Court this term. In addition the show discusses how the appointment of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito has changed how the Court operates and the outcome of key legal decisions.”
  • Domestic Spying: What are the Checks on Presidential Power?
    “After recent reports in the New York Times, the Bush administration has admitted it authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists within the United States without obtaining court approval. These actions raise significant questions about how far government can go to track terrorists and whether our civil liberties are on a crash course with executive power.”

Library of Congress: Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789
Part of the Library’s American Memory offerings, these digitized collections hold hundreds of documents relating to the work of the Continental Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. The collection features an early printing of the Constitution. 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 site also links to related curriculum material called Collection Connections. 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.

new2.jpg  Library of Congress: The Learning Page: In Congress Assembled: Continuity and Change in the Governing of the United States
The teaching unit, In Congress Assembled, was developed and written by two teacher consultants to the National Digital Library Program at the Library of Congress. Kirk Ankeney, an advocate of teaching with primary source materials, is Vice Principal of Muirlands Middle School in San Diego, California. David Vigilante is a consultant in history education and Assistant Director of the National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA. He is the author of many teaching units and guides using primary source materials on subjects such as the Evolution of the Bill of Rights (published by Regents, University of California, Los Angeles).

Library of Congress: The Learning Page: The Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation?
Lesson plan compiled by Claudia Argyres and Jim Smith in 2002 looks at two questions: Was the Constitution an abandonment of the ideals of the American Revolution? and Was the Constitution essential to our survival as a nation? (For Grade 11)

National Archives: Teaching with Documents: Observing Constitution Day
The Archives provides suggestions for teaching activities. “Lessons by Era,” in the left-hand of the page, links to historical incidents from 1754 to present—many of which can be tied to Constitutional principles and amendments.

new2.jpg  National Constitution Center: Constitution Day: September 18th 2006
This website is a marketplace of educational materials and programming tools for use on Constitution Day. The Educators’ Resources section includes lesson plans such as “The First Amendment and Protection of Students’ Rights,” “A Visitor from Outer Space (V.O.I.C.E.),” “Interview with Chief Justice John Roberts on the U.S. Constitution” (from C-SPAN), and CQ Press’ “Pro/Con Debates on Constitutional Issues Featured in The CQ Researcher”. Links to lesson plans on other organizational web sites are also included.

new2.jpg  National Council on Economic Education, EconEdLink: Constitution Costs
This lesson helps students understand the basic services provided for Americans in the United States Constitution and the necessity of a system of taxation to fund those services. Students will debate the pros and cons of having governments fund and provide particular services. (For grades 6-12.)

new2.jpg  National Endowment for the Humanities: EDSITEment: The Bill of Rights
This June 2005 feature includes lesson plans such as “Balancing Three Branches at Once: Our Systems of Checks and Balances,” “The First Amendment: What’s Fair in a Free Country,” and “Regulating Freedom of Speech.”

National Endowment for the Humanities: EDSITEment: The Constitution of the United States
This September 2005 feature highlights lesson plans such as “The Preamble to the Constitution: How Do You Make a More Perfect Union?,” Before and Beyond the Constitution: What Should a President Do?,” “James Madison: Madison Was There,” “The Constitutional Convention: Four Founding Fathers You May Never Have Met” (about Oliver Ellsworth, Alexander Hamilton, William Paterson, and Edmund Randolph), and “Constitutional Convention: What the Founding Fathers Said.” EDSITEment also includes lesson plans on the Supreme Court, the role of the President, the Bill of Rights, and freedom of speech, among many others.

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.

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  Selected Web Sites

Angelo State University: Department of Government: The United States Constitution: September 17, 1787
To learn more about the Constitution, or to practice reading it, people are encouraged to go to the Government Dept.’s web page designed by Dr. Casey Jones and Mr. Jerry Perry.

CQ Press in Context: Celebrating Constitution Day, September 18, 2006
In honor of National Constitution Day (September 18, 2006), CQ Press has devoted a section of the CQ Press in Context web site with free access to documents and analytical content related to the U.S. Constitution. This content includes two ready-to-teach, downloadable lesson plans (“Constitution Day Lesson Plan on Fourth Amendment Rights” and “Constitution Day Lesson Plan on First Amendment and Religion in Schools”) designed especially for teachers who want to take advantage of Constitution Day as a classroom-learning tool. (Each lesson plan has a high school and a college version.)

National Association of Student Personnel Administrators: Constitution Day Implementation Guide
A 12-page implementation guide which includes suggested activities, a list of web links, and some broadcast and video resources.

National Constitution Center: Constitution Day: September 17th 2006
This website is a marketplace of educational materials and programming tools for use on Constitution Day.

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  Locating Library Materials on the U.S. Constitution in RamCat

Several Library of Congress subject headings cover various aspects of the Constitution. You can choose to do a “Guided Keyword Search” using the terms “united states” and “constitution” in the subject field and retrieve 144 records (as of August 29, 2006). Or you could choose to use the more controlled method of searching and use Library of Congress subject headings.

The specific subject search United States. Constitution will retrieve a list of subject headings beginning with that phrase, including those assigned to groups of amendments (1st-10th Amendments or 13th-15th Amendments) or to specific amendments (1st, 2nd, 18th, 25th, etc.). Use the subject United States. Constitution. 1st-10th Amendments to locate books and other items on the Bill of Rights.

Some phrases concerning specific aspects of constitutional amendments are also valid subject headings in RamCat. These include Freedom of speech and Freedom of the press. The “right of assembly” is entered under the heading Assembly, Right of. If you want titles on the right to bear arms, use United States. Constitution. 2nd Amendment, or headings such as Gun control. (Works on the legal aspects of gun control are entered under Firearms—Law and legislation.)

The subject Constitutional history—United States retrieves material in the Library’s collections on the history of the Constitution.

If you want to see what publications the Library has on the Constitutional Convention of 1787, use the subject heading United States. Constitutional Convention (1787).

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Revised: September 2006, Janetta Paschal, Government Documents/Reference Librarian