Why does a NWPA conservative want to post part of the state Constitution in every school? | Tuesday Morning Coffee

August 13, 2019 7:35 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

So what’s wrong with a little civics education? A bill sponsored by a Jefferson County lawmaker has us asking some questions.

This week, state Rep. Cris Dush, whose previous contributions to the Big Book O’Bad Ideas includes a bill calling for the impeachment of four Democratic members of the state Supreme Court,  began looking for cosponsors for his plan to mandate the posting of the preamble to the Pennsylvania Constitution “in the entrance of every school building where state funding is provided to the district or institution of higher education.”

Again, what could be wrong with a little civics education?

In a word, God.

Billy Penn gets down with the locals.

First up, a little context:

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve no doubt noticed that efforts to slap “In God We Trust,” on school buildings and other public edifices tend to be litigation magnets. There’s even coordinated national effort to get the Cold War-era slogan posted on as many school buildings as possible.

It’s not explicitly clear that’s where Dush, an arch-conservative, is headed, but stick with us for a moment. The hints are there.

First up, here’s the preamble to the state’s foundational document:

“WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution,” the preamble reads. 

So, it’s not “In God we trust.” It’s more like, “Thanks for all the politics, God.”

The Pennsylvania House chamber. Image via Flickr Commons

In his co-sponsorship memo, Dush says his proposal is all about making sure the kids know their history.

“Constitutional republics are unique in world history. While other forms of government have relied on the use of force for a dictator, monarch or totalitarian organization to make subjects of the people, constitutional republics rely on a written declaration of The People as to what form of government they will accept,” he writes, later borrowing a bon mot from James Madison to lament that “the distinction is not ‘so well understood in America.'”

We could argue that the confusion starts at the top, but no matter.

Posting that thicket of constitutional verbiage in school entryways will serve as a “daily remind[er] [to] students preparing to take their place in this republic of the power and responsibility they will assume,” when they finish their educational careers, Dush wrote in his co-sponsorship memo.

The U.S. Constitution (National Constitution Center photo)

Again, we’re all for a little civics education. It’s important to understand the separation of powers; to learn the ins-and-outs of the legislative process, and to fully comprehend how a bill becomes law.

And nowhere is that more gracefully set down than the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We just have to ask why, if it’s a reminder of their public responsibilities, that model of verbal economy isn’t worthy of being posted in the entryway of every school building across our fair Commonwealth? Why, we ask, might it not be just as inspirational and educational to scores of Pennsylvania students?

What one word, we cannot help but wonder, might be missing?

God only knows.

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(Dsw4/WikiMedia Commons)

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You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to former Rendell/Thompson/Kane administration spokesman, and longtime Friend O’the Blog, Chuck Ardo, and to constant reader Ellen Ross in the Pa. Dept. of Health, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, folks.

Hail and Farewell.
Our deepest prayers and condolences go out to our friends and colleagues at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News on the passing of the wonderful Gar Joseph, a versatile editor and fine journalist, who died of cancer on Saturday, aged 71. We cannot claim to have known him well, but our interactions were always cordial and professional. We also credit Gar to introducing us to our favorite cocktail, Campari & soda, one cold December night at Bull & the Bear at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. So long, and godspeed.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.