We The People has talked a lot about our founding document – the United States Constitution, a 233-year-old set of rules for American life and governance that is particularly relevant right now.
The inauguration process is detailed in the 20th Amendment. The impeachment of a President is described in Article 1, Sections 2 and 3. The 2020 election results have been confirmed by states and counted by Congress under Article 2 and the 12th Amendment. Despite all the wisdom, the Constitution has one problem: most Americans don’t know what’s in it.
Republicans and Democrats both say they protect the constitution. President Trump dismissed the Constitution no fewer than 16 times prior to the Capitol riots this month, urging supporters to hold an allegedly unconstitutional election.
“We live in unprecedented times,” newsdos constitutional law expert Jeffrey Rosen told Tony Dokoupil, co-host of CBS This Morning.
The Constitution is a 7,500 word blueprint for America that sets out our national government, fundamental rights, and a process for solving our problems, at least in theory.
“The constitution offers as many questions and answers as a forum or platform for civil dialogue and debate so that we can resolve these issues peacefully,” he said.
Rosen is also president of the National Constitution Center, where web traffic is at an all-time high – which isn’t exactly good.
“What does it say about us as a country that at this point so many of us had to go to the National Constitutional Center to refresh our memories of the document that underpins our country?” Asked Dokoupil.
“There is no doubt that we are in a civic education crisis … The writers knew that the consequences of constitutional ignorance and being guided by passion rather than sanity, armed mobs. Well, we only saw that they were right. ” Rosen answered.
The constitution provides that every immigrant to this country must pass a citizenship test to become a naturalized citizen. You might assume that Americans do at least as well by birth as Americans by choice, but that hasn’t always been the case. newsdos chose to use some basic questions from this exam to ask people how much they knew and how deep the country is in crisis.
When asked how many people there were in the House of Representatives, one woman estimated 12, while another replied that she did not know. One man guessed 80 when he asked the same question.
When Nicole Devita was asked to name the three branches of government, she did not know.
“Oh, my husband is going to kill me,” laughed Devita.
The vast majority of people were at a loss when they asked these questions, including Dominick Scarol, who did not know that Chief Justice John Roberts was the Chief Justice of the United States.
When asked about the Chief Justice’s name, Dean Gerard had a different answer.
“The Chief Justice? Trump,” he replied.
During the questioning, American Americans passing tried to help. But it was clear that most people could use a refresher.
“Who signs a bill? It is not officially a law until that person signs it,” asked Dokoupil. The astonished Silvia Manhoa replied: “What’s your name again, oh boy?”
These questions are all things Americans learned or should have learned long ago. But many people tend to forget this information, and many Americans haven’t read the Constitution in years, if at all.
When asked if he had never read it, Dominick Scarola replied: “I’m sure hardly anyone has read it.”
A 2019 survey by the nonprofit Institute for Citizens and Scientists found that only four out of ten Americans could pass the citizenship test. Experts say this is a bigger problem.
“You could call it a scandal. I actually call it a proxy for a greater number of problems,” said Raj Vinnakota, president of the institute, which aims to “redefine and rebuild a field of civic learning” to America to reconnect with America its constitutional roots.
“You have to understand how our government works in elections and so on. But you also have to understand why we set it up like this. And if you don’t understand those two parts, you will get into trouble. And you cannot in our society work effectively, “said Vinnakota.
The lack of knowledge and understanding of the Constitution is something that affects experts like Rosen.
“What worries me most about constitutional ignorance is the same concern that the authors had,” he said. “Without constitutional education the republic will collapse.”