Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Studying the Constitution

Back in the 1770s-80s, the founders were an unusually well-educated group of men, considering they were farmers and shopkeepers in the world’s frontier. They had a list of readings in common, which led to their concepts of natural rights granted to men and women by God. And it is this understanding that led to the writing of our brilliant founding documents: The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

I’ve often felt driven to educate myself somewhat along the lines of the founders. A couple of years ago I went to an all-day seminar provided by the National Center for Constitutional Studies ( I’ve also used their curriculum to teach homeschool students from elementary through high school. Another good source is Hillsdale College. Last fall, in honor of Constitution Day in September, they provided a free six-week course of lectures by Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale, introducing the Constitution. It’s a good review, still available, and free of cost.
Right now Hillsdale College is offering even more. They have developed their core course on the Constitution for online study—also for free. Constitution 101 will be ten weeks of lectures, readings, discussion, quizzes, and all you’d expect from a college class. It is part of Hillsdale’s mission to educate, and they take seriously educating as far and wide as possible, particularly these constitutional essentials of our culture. (Their magazine Imprimus is another example of their spreading knowledge mission, also free.)  The course started Monday, but you can sign up and catch up at any time. The only thing you miss by starting late would be the active Q&A.
Here is the lineup of lecture titles, and the various lecturers:
  1. The American Mind
    Larry P. Arnn
    Monday, February 20
  2. The Declaration of Independence
    Thomas G. West
    Monday, February 27
  3. The Problem of Majority Tyranny
    David Bobb
    Monday, March 5
  4. Separation of Powers: Preventing Tyranny
    Kevin Portteus
    Monday, March 12
  5. Separation of Powers: Ensuring Good Government
    Will Morrisey
    Monday, March 19
  6. Religion, Morality, and Property
    David Bobb
    Monday, March 26
  7. Crisis of Constitutional Government
    Will Morrisey
    Monday, April 2
  8. Abraham Lincoln and the Constitution
    Kevin Portteus
    Monday, April 9
  9. The Progressive Rejection of the Founding
    Ronald J. Pestritto
    Monday, April 16
  10. The Recovery of the Constitution
    Larry P. Arnn
    Monday, April 23
I’ve already enjoyed the first lecture and started on the readings, the most pertinent segments of some essential founding readings. Here’s this week’s list:
  1. “Letter to Henry Lee”—Thomas Jefferson
  2. “On the Commonwealth”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
  3. “Nicomachean Ethics”—Aristotle
  4. “The Politics”—Aristotle
  5. “Discourses Concerning Government”—Algernon Sidney
  6. “Second Treatise of Government”—John Locke
  7. “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union”—Abraham Lincoln
  8. “The Inspiration of the Declaration”—Calvin Coolidge
All of the readings are made available online, but they are all taken from the book Hillsdale’s text The US Constitution: A Reader, which you can order:
Just to be clear, I have no connection to Hillsdale, other than someone who subscribes to things they offer. I just appreciate a good deal on some essential learning, so I want to share. I hope you’ll join me in this study of our beloved Constitution.

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