by Karl Kurtz
Jonathan Estrin and Marshall Croddy of the Constitutional Rights Foundation wrote an excellent op ed piece in the Los Angeles Times to commemorate Bill of Rights Day earlier this week. They explain that the Bill of Rights was not contained in the original draft of the Constitution, in part because of opposition by James Madison and the Federalists, who thought that it was unnecessary. After it became apparent that the Constitution was unlikely to be approved by some states without the Bill of Rights, Madison changed his position and became one of the chief architects of the Bill, which was added by Congress and submitted to the states for approval. They then pose some questions:
Given the nature of modern political discourse, too often driven by partisanship, power-seeking and punditry, one wonders if we would be able to craft a constitution or a bill of rights today.
Indeed, can we even manage to address the controversial issues that do face us? How many Madisons are out there willing to compromise or reverse positions for the good of the country?
They go on to argue:
For our democracy to continue to flourish, we must have an educated and involved citizenry. We must have leaders who can debate and compromise to find solutions to our vexing problems.
And we must educate our young people to take these civic roles in the future. This vital task must be borne by both parents and schools.
Their engaging story of the Bill of Rights and their plea for improved civic education are well worth reading.