Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Dr. Carol Swain to the studio along with former Tennessee attorney general Paul Summers on the newsmaker line.
During the second hour, Summers and Swain weighed in on how both private and public schools have been leaving out the instruction of the U.S. Constitution and civics citing that many of the protesters out there today are 30 years old or younger.
Leahy: Carol Swain the all-star panelist and the former professor at Vanderbilt. Good morning Carol. How are you?
Swain: Good morning. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Leahy: A lot of stuff going on.
Swain: I know.
Leahy: A lot going on. I don’t know if you know former attorney general of the state of Tennessee. Paul Summers. Paul and I had a great conversation about the Keep Nine Amendment. And we ask him to stay over a little bit to talk about the constitution bee. Paul have you met Carol Swain at any time in your career?
Summers: Yes, I have. And it’s my honor to know her.
Swain: Thank you.
Leahy: General Summers. I guess that’s the proper way to refer to you as a former state attorney general?
Summers: You can call me general. You can call me a judge. Just don’t call me late for supper.
Leahy: (Laughter) You are my kind of guy. We were talking a little bit about the National Constitution Bee and the lack of civic education. Have you noticed that kids today in secondary and elementary schools are not getting the kind of education on American history? On civics and the Constitution that Carol, you and I had when we were growing up?
Summers: Absolutely. And that’s one of the reasons I’m writing articles about our founding documents. Particularly for our local newspapers all over Tennessee. I’m trying to instill that education that we got when we were in the seventh grade. We don’t have it anymore.
Leahy: Carol as you know has been a tenured professor at Princeton University. A tenured Professor at Vanderbilt and has talked a little bit about the problems in education. Carol and I have you noticed when you had kids that would come in and as a professor for a long time, did you see the freshmen in college decline over your tenure as a professor?
Swain: I think that it depends where they attended school.
Leahy: Does it?
Swain: It depends a lot on where they attended school. But one of the things that concerned me was that the Constitution was being taught as a living document that changes with the times and the culture and the people. Much the way the political would argue that the Bible is today. A living document that’s supposed to change with the culture.
Leahy: General Summers, are you familiar with how civics and the Constitution are being taught in Tennessee’s public and private schools today? And would you say it’s not being taught or where it is being taught is not necessarily being taught properly?
Summers: I think that Carol is correct. I think that the textualism and interpreting the text of the Constitution is not as important as thinking that the Constitution is a living breathing document that changes over a period of time. We want judges who don’t enact laws. We want judges who interpret laws.
Leahy: Yes. You are exactly right. I have been shocked in dealing with the Tennessee Constitution Bee for three years. And a couple of things, let me tell you how many scholarships we’ve given out to kids. $3,000 for the winners for the first few years. Now it’s up to $10,000 for the first winner this year and $5,000 for the second place and $2.500 for the third place.
It’s been difficult because we found that not a lot of public school teachers are not all that enthusiastic about learning about the Constitution because they have other things they’ve been taught. It’s something in the system that the schools and the teachers that are measured that makes it difficult to make the Constitution front and center in instruction in secondary schools within Tennessee and around the country.
Summers: One of the problems that we have is that when our 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence in the 1700s they didn’t know whether they were signing a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain or they were signing their death warrants. And that’s what’s not taught in our schools.
It took 11 years plus fighting a war with Great Britain for our independence to be declared. And in 1787 we had the constitution. Once again, we don’t really appreciate what our Founding Fathers did when they signed the Declaration and then later signed the Constitution declaring our independence and our seeking freedom.
Leahy: Carol, you were just up in Virginia. You visited Monticello of Thomas Jefferson and his house. Did you go to Montpelier of James Madison’s house?
Swain: No, I didn’t.
Leahy: But they are in the same area.
Swain: Well the issue has to do with the fact that our universities and colleges have turned out teachers who disdain the Constitution and because of that they are not going to teach it to young people. And where the Constitution is being taught, it’s being taught at the best private schools that have not been taken over by the progressive left. That number has declined over the years. And homeschoolers. Homeschoolers are getting the best education in my opinion.
Leahy: And if you look at it, about 95 percent of kids go to public schools. Maybe two or three percent in private schools and another two percent in homeschools. I’m worried General Summers. I’m very worried about this. Since kids for 30 years have not been properly taught about America, civics, and our history they grow up with attitudes where they don’t understand America.
And frankly, if you look at the rioters in the streets last night in Louisville, Denver, and Dallas. Most of them were about 30 years or younger. I think that’s very bad. Do you see that as well? The lack of knowledge of the Constitution and civics has led to civil unrest?
Summers: I couldn’t agree with you more. We live in a society where we want more jobs and no mobs. We want to have peace. We want to be able and as the Constitution says in the First Amendment, we want to be able to peacefully assemble and peacefully or peaceably protest and vent our frustrations. But not through violence. We don’t get that apparently anymore in our schools or more fundamentally in our families.
Leahy: I think you are absolutely right. If you go to guidetotheconstition.org you can see our textbook there. It’s a supplemental textbook. There is a podcast there as well. So if you have kids and grandkids you can listen to the podcast.
That’s the manual that kids that go to this Constitution Bee will use. And of course, as a former attorney general of the state, I’m going to invite you to read it. And of course, you can send corrections as they come about. I’ve not yet asked Carol to apply her fine pen to that book. We did by the way get the University of Wisconsin to fact check it and review it.
Swain: That’s great.
Leahy: Yeah. And they aren’t exactly center-right.
Swain: The Constitution is not right or left. It is what it is.
Leahy: We were talking about this Keep Nine Amendment which would be like the 28th amendment to the Constitution that I would favor it which would say there would only be nine justices to the Supreme Court. How do you see the political process moving in the next Congress? What do you think the odds are that you could get two-thirds in the House that would have to sign in favor of it? And then two thirds in the Senate before it goes out to ratification to three-fourths of the states?
Summers: The first thing is to get the question asked at the presidential and vice presidential debates. We know that politicians will sometimes change their views with changing times. But we at least would like to lock in the candidate for both president and vice president as to what their position is to the Constitution amendment.
Leahy: Carol, what do you think? You play first Joe Biden and then Donald Trump. And I’ll ask the question. The question is simply this. Would you support a constitutional amendment to limit the number of justices in the Supreme Court at nine? Play Joe Biden. What would Joe Biden say?
Swain: Joe Biden would say no of course not. And Donald Trump would stick with tradition. He would stick with nine.
Listen to the second hour here:
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