- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 10, 2015

A new campaign has been launched to educate Americans of all ages about the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and core documents and principles of the nation, campaign leaders said Thursday.

Some 20 organizations are part of the new National Constitutional Literacy Campaign, venture capitalist Chuck Stetson, founder of Essentials in Education, said Thursday at an event at the National Press Club.

If people want to understand the major constitutional and political issues of the day, they should understand the full arc of the nation’s constitutional history, he said. But “they just don’t know the facts they should know.”

Since 2004, Sept. 17 has been designated as Constitution Day or Citizenship Day.

While all publicly funded educational institutions are required to provide an educational program to students on that day, campaign leaders said it is not enough to focus on America’s founding documents only one day a year.

The goal is to “make every day Constitution Day,” said Julie Silverbrook, executive director of the District-based Constitutional Sources Project, an online library of documents related to the founding of the country.

In 2014, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania reported sobering findings from a survey of some 1,400 adults on civics questions.

Only 36 percent of the adults could name all three branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial — while 27 percent knew it took two-thirds majority votes in both the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.

Moreover, 21 percent of Americans thought — incorrectly — that if the Supreme Court reached a 5-4 majority ruling, it could be sent back to Congress for reconsideration.

The Constitution was written by elites who could have seized power for themselves, but instead created “the first bottom-up system of self-government,” said Tim Donner, president of One Generation Away, an educational organization.

That means the Constitution contains “revolutionary principles,” compared to other types of governments, said Mr. Donner.

However, “most Americans don’t know the story of America,” said George Nethercutt Jr., a former Washington state congressman.

If the nation’s founding principles are to last, they must first be understood, he said, adding that he founded the George Nethercutt Foundation to foster education about citizenship and civic engagement.

Among the campaign leaders who spoke Thursday were Kerry Sautner, vice president for education at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia; Roger Beckett, executive director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio; and Matt Spalding, associate vice president and dean of educational programs at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

The Washington Times is also a part of the new campaign.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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