Is the Bill of Rights hopelessly out of date? Are we ready to scrap the amendments and start writing new ones? Those are the questions that faced a sixth-grader in Bryant, Arkansas, and her mother is none too happy about it.
“I can see a class using critical thinking skills to modernize the words, as to help them better understand the Amendments,” said Lela Spears, whose child brought home the homework assignment. “Giving an assignment to remove two then add two with little explanation as to why is upsetting.”
The assignment asked sixth-grade students to imagine that they were part of a “National Revised Bill of Rights Task Force.” The job of this hypothetical NRBRTS was to “ensure that our personal civil liberties and the pursuit of happiness remains guarded in the 21st century.”
In order to accomplish that lofty goal, kids were assigned to “prune” two of the 10 amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights and then add two new ones that they make up. Students were also instructed to “prioritize” and “revise” the existing amendments.
Among other rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution guarantee freedom of speech and religion, protection against unreasonable searches, the right to a public jury trial and the right not to incriminate oneself.
While Bryant schools use the controversial “Common Core” curriculum, it is unclear whether the assignment is part of Common Core. For that matter, according to the web site The Blaze, the school district has not confirmed that the Bill of Rights exercise was an actual assignment.
“After she brought it home and explained her assignment to me, it made me question exactly what she was being taught,” Spears said, adding that her daughter had received no other education in the Constitution or civics at all.
“She didn’t even understand what the Amendments meant. How can she make an informed decision when she doesn’t understand what she is ‘throwing out’?” Spears said in an interview with the Digital Journal.
Spears’ daughter is not alone. In a 2011 Newsweek survey, 44 percent of the 1,000 people asked could not say what the Bill of Rights was.
SOURCES: Digital Journal, The Blaze, Newsweek