Oct 20, 2010

the eleventy-sixth amendment

I've been staying out of the political fray this season, since I'm far too busy with far more pressing things. (Today in Debate: a half-hour skirmish on the meaning of history.) Why am I posting this, then? I don't know. I guess it's because I loathe confident ignorance.

I tried to watch Christine O'Donnell's dust-up with Chris Coons over the interpretation of the First Amendment, and whether it lays the groundwork for the separation of church and state. I was hoping to see if O'Donnell's reported ignorance ("The First Amendment?") was, in fact, an uncharitable fallacy of accent in interpretation. (Point. Counterpoint.)

I couldn't get that far. It took only 1 minute and 8 seconds to determine that O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution is tenuous, if not fatuous. When Coons argues that schools shouldn't be allowed to teach religious doctrine, O'Donnell fires back,
"Public schools do not have the right to teach what they feel? [Turns to the audience.] Well there you go. Do you want a senator who would impose his beliefs? Talk about imposing your beliefs on the local school!
At this point, O'Donnell is at least courting an actual controversy. Local school boards have long wrestled with the First Amendment, and there are plenty of folks who want to keep the feds out of their schoolhouse. (Ironically, a lot of them are the same folks who voted for the president most responsible for the raging federalization of education, George W. Bush.)

But then, after reiterating her support of teaching Intelligent Design in the classroom, O'Donnell tries to hammer the point home:
You have just stated that you will impose your will on local school boards, and that is a blatant violation of the Constitution."
Which Constitution? The one that hides out in the National Archives makes no mention of education, leaving the matter entirely to the states. Nothing in the Constitution would prohibit the establishment of a national education system, which seems to be the trend these days.

So I never made it to the moments when O'Donnell reportedly was baffled by the placement of the establishment clause in the First Amendment. I was too astonished at her novel interpolation of the Eleventy-Sixth.

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