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Don’t fool with Bill of Rights
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Don’t fool with Bill of Rights

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Some Americans say we should update the Bill of Rights. Their suggestion might seem valid because we’re in a period of division and disagreement so it’s time to update our government. On Wednesday, the Bill of Rights will be 230 years old. That’s a long time, but the document has not outlived its usefulness.

The Bill of Rights is relevant today as it was when our Founders tacked it onto the U.S. Constitution to remind us of our rights. They come from the “laws of nature and of nature’s God,” as the Declaration of Independence states. The Bill of Rights reaffirms our freedom of speech and religion and other fundamental rights.

As human beings and as U.S. citizens we possess those rights, regardless if they’re written into our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Every American possesses the right to speak their minds and to practice their faith.

So what would we accomplish by updating the Bill of Rights? Could we gain anything if we try to amend the underpinnings of our free society? We think not. The Constitution and Bill of Rights say exactly what needs to be said. Rather than debating whether it’s time to update them, we should be questioning whether we Americans are living up to the responsibilities that come with our freedoms. The historic road maps of Democracy drafted so many years ago are just fine. What’s lacking is our knowledge of them. Americans need to possess a stronger knowledge of the foundation on which our democracy was built, including our history.

Jeffrey Sikkenga of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, wrote last week that too many young Americans lack the knowledge to intelligently discuss the Bill of Rights or U.S. Constitution. The Ashbrook Center is an independent educational center specializing in the study and teaching of U.S. history and government. The historical quizzes readers occasionally see on the Hub’s Viewpoints page originate at the Ashbrook Center.

“Unfortunately, too many Americans — especially young people — don’t know the basic facts of our history and don’t have even a rudimentary understanding of such great documents as the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” Sikkenga wrote.

The most-recent National Assessment of Education Progress found only 24% of eighth-graders are “proficient” in civics and even fewer, 15%, are proficient in history. Those students soon will graduate from high school.

“Even worse, too many young people don’t understand why America deserves their respect and devotion. A Gallup survey showed that only 24% of young people are ‘extremely proud’ to be American,” Sikkenga said.

It’s not the Bill of Rights that should be updated. Rather, it’s Americans’ knowledge and appreciation of that document and their nation’s history that neds to be bolstered.

We would be a different nation if Americans were more knowledgeable of their responsibilities as citizens. Until we possess a stronger knowledge, we’ll not fully enjoy the documents’ unifying influence.

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