In looking at the upcoming term’s calendar to see when classes began (Aug 22, for any UAers reading), one date listed was Constitution Day, September 17. Columbus Day? No. We don’t get Columbus Day off, for obvious reasons. But Constitution Day, yes. I had never heard of Constitution Day, so I Googled it and found this Web site, which looks very official with information on the Constitution itself and lots of articles copied from Wikipedia about founding fathers, and a gift shop which as of this writing seems missing or broken.
It felt like a made-up holiday, or something Southern (the address listed on the site is in Naples, Fla.) and suspicious. But then I Wikipedia’d it, and found out Robert Byrd stuck its founding into the budget bill of 2004, mandating that September 17 be named Constitution Day, and that all federally funded schools teach some aspect of the Constitution on that day.
I have vague memories of this as a Bush-era news-listen-to-er. But now I’m a teacher at a federally funded school. It would be a delight if UA were allowed to teach its students about the broken, bigoted, power-consolidating, 300,000-word state constitution Alabama should be more famous for. But maybe just putting it on the academic calendar is enough to satisfy the federal mandate. (And perhaps its being in quote marks is some kind of comment?)
This year, Sept. 17 is a Monday, so I don’t need to worry about it.
Five minutes of e-sleuthing, by the way, uncovered that constitutionday.com is regstered to the same address in Naples, Fla., as the Advocates for Civil Justice, which seems from what I can tell to be an unregistered pet project of aggrieved divorcee Bebe McFadden against Florida Circuit Judge Brian J. Davis.
If there’s any tragedy to Constitution Day it’s that, up until 2005, September 17 was a federal holiday called “Citizenship Day”. Anyone thinking in 2012 (or 2004, for that matter) that the U.S. Constitution (which is part of every school’s curriculum) is more important to teach for one day a year than citizenship is proof enough that people need to be taught more about citizenship.
UPDATE: September 17, 2012, is the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which could be lesson no. 1 in schools on Citizenship Day.