Time now for a new Constitutional Convention?

Jeff Weintraub’s post Re: Jefferson, Madison, & Burke on the US Constitution includes his own comments, followed by the text of a review by Cass Sunstein in The New Republic of a book by Sanford Levinson on how the US Constitution is and has been viewed, and used, from the contrasting views of Jefferson and Madison to the present day. I think there’s a lot here (in the book, review, and commentary) that could be put to great use in social studies.

I teach undergraduates in an Elementary Teacher Education program. My students are not preparing to be social studies teachers, in particular, but teachers of all subjects in the elementary grades. I find that these students don’t have much idea of what the Constitution is, in relation to other kinds of law. I wonder how different this is from what I’d find with pre-service secondary social studies candidates.

I have thought about trying an activity in which students would propose amendments to the Constitution, as a springboard for learning in history and civics about constitutionalism and the Constitution. Levinson’s ideas about a new Constitutional Convention suggests other possibilities.

There are other, somewhat unrelated, points of interest for this blog with both Levinson and Sunstein.

Sunstein has just published a new book – Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge – that he speaks about in a program on BookTV at midnight Sunday night/Monday morning (10/15-16).

Sanford Levinson has been one of my favorite legal scholars for a long, long time (his ideas appear a few places in my 1991 Constitution and Curriculum). Aside from legal scholarship per se, however, there is an episode in his career that I find interesting for all of us in professional education (e.g., ed-school faculty). Levinson might be described as a legal realist. His legal scholarship does not necessarily presuppose the reality of “the rule of law,” but inquires into whatever might be revealed about the real nature of legal systems and processes. He was attacked, as an example, at one point in the law journals by more “establishment” types who argued that anyone who does not subscribe to belief in “the rule of law” is thereby disqualified to hold a position on any law school faculty. It’s a bit like saying that unless you are a true believer in the theology of the sponsoring religion, you are not qualified to be a professor of theology. While there might be some arguable justification for that in the case of theology at a sectarian university, I think it’s a different matter to make such an argument for other professions, such as law or education. I think it’s worth knowing about Sanford’s case, where that kind of issue has been argued in the case of legal education.

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