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Columbia schools celebrate Constitution Day

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | 11:36 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - The U.S. Constitution was the talk of the town Wednesday - at least at Columbia Public Schools.

Schools tailored activities centered on the Constitution to make them age-appropriate for their students. At Paxton Keeley Elementary School, kindergartners worked with the Preamble, coming up with synonyms for the more difficult words while fourth graders came up with their own amendments to the 221-year-old document. At Hickman High School, Principal Michael Jeffers and two senior students delivered speeches about the Constitution as part of the morning announcements.

Jenifer Albright-Borts, social studies and English Language Learners coordinator for Columbia Public Schools, said she received a lot of positive feedback from teachers about the day.

"They've been asking a lot of questions and looking for resources to help them," Albright-Borts said.

The annual Constitution Day comes from an amendment added to a 2004 appropriations bill requiring all schools that receive federal funding to teach students about the Constitution on Sept. 17.

"Elementary school teachers get excited because it's something different," Albright-Borts said. "They've got so many things they have to cover, so it gives them an opportunity to break away from the norm."

Requiring schools to teach about the Constitution once a year isn't without controversy. Under the 10th Amendment, the power to determine what or when subjects are taught had been controlled by the states without federal interference. Prior to the bill being passed, the Education Department had it in its guidelines that the development of curriculum and setting of course requirements fall outside federal authority.

"There was some controversy over whether the law was even constitutional," MU law professor Christina Wells said about the law's initial passing. "I saw it as grandstanding and more for political purposes. I thought it was something that should've been in the curriculum anyway."

As coordinator of English Language Learners, Albright-Borts said she sees the day as a good way to help those not born in the U.S. learn more about the country.

Despite her initial misgivings regarding the law, Wells said she now sees the day as worthwhile. She participated Wednesday in a panel discussion regarding the Constitution as part of a celebration at the Columbia Public Library.

"It's a nice opportunity to come together and talk about what the Constitution means," Wells said.

 


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