A Simple Way to Improve Constitutional Literacy

I have a modest proposal that will go a long way to stopping idiocies like this and this, in which Congresspersons and reporters covering national politics demonstrate a basic ignorance of the Constitution.

Please don't laugh, because I am serious about this: the full text of the Constitution should be printed in every US passport.

The US Passport was recently re-designed. What had once had a certain classic simplicity was tarted up with moderately kitschy pictures of “American Icons” and embellished with “inspirational quotes”:

The new passport comes with its own name: “American Icon.” It’s hard to think of one that was left out.

The inside cover sports an engraving of the battle scene that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner.” A couple of lines of the anthem, starting with, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,” are scrawled in what the State Department says is Francis Scott Key’s own cursive.

The short, 28-page version of the passport comes with 13 inspirational quotes, including six from United States presidents and one from a Mohawk Thanksgiving speech. The pages, done in a pink-grey-blue palate, are rife with portraits of Americana ranging from a clipper ship to Mount Rushmore to a long-horn cattle drive.

You can see an animation of the whole design at the State Department's website.

My plan is simple: remove the kitsch, replace it with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (Or, as a fallback, keep the kitsch and at least add the Declaration and the Constitution.)

Travel these days involves a great deal of waiting in line, not least at security and immigration, times when a passport is often in hand and Americans might find themselves studying the Constitution if they have nothing else to read.

In the Constitution they might find all sorts of concealed gems, ranging from the clause providing for the impeachment of all “civil officers,” to the (long) list of Congressional powers and the (much shorter) list of Presidential powers, to that interesting Fourth Amendment — good reading while you are waiting to be frisked at the airport.

More than 74 million Americans have a passport, and the number grows every year. The passport is a great opportunity for a real civics lesson based on the things that make this country great — our real American Icons: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.

This entry was posted in Law: Constitutional Law. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Simple Way to Improve Constitutional Literacy

  1. dave says:

    A few years ago there was some effort to have an abridged version of the constitution put on the back of the one dollar bill.

  2. Brautigan says:

    Good lord that is f’ing ugly. I’m just glad I got mine renewed before the change.

    This is what you get when you have a government run by people who collect Hummels.

  3. Andy says:

    Yeah, the new passports are beyond ridiculous and gaudy.

    I’m not sure that printing the Constitution on them would solve anything. Only an insignificant few would actually read it. And some might think they have the same rights when traveling abroad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.