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Our Kids Don't Know What?!

Pete Tannen,
ACLU of Sarasota
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September 19, 2008

Every time another election rolls around, I am prepared to be astonished. Again.

Astonished by the utter lack of knowledge most Americans have about their civil liberties or, indeed, their country.

For instance, only two in five Americans know that we have three branches of government, and can name them (Zogby, August 2006).

And 60 percent of Americans, 16 to 26 years old, could not find Iraq on the map (National Geographic poll, 2006).

Our high school kids seem to be too busy taking mandatory tests to pay much attention to the Bill of Rights and what it means to them.

Which is why the Florida ACLU has come up with some help for every high school student and teacher in America:

It’s a free video featuring high school students facing some challenges to their rights: Can I wear my anti-war T-shirt in class? Do I have to open my glove compartment when a police officer asks me to? Can we satirize the superintendent in the school paper? And can our parents insist that our graduation ceremony start with a Christian prayer?

It started in the Sarasota School system — where some teachers use it for Constitution Day and others as extra material in history or government classes all during the year.

The video is spreading like a virus — and is now being used in high schools throughout Florida, as well as in San Diego, Pittsburgh, and in several Wyoming schools as well! (As one teacher commented: “The dvd was very interesting and created much conversation and questions from my students.”)

Anyone can download the video (“The Rights We’ve Inherited”), absolutely free, from our website:

It runs 10 minutes, with automatic pauses for class discussion, and should take up one regular school period.

(There’s also a free teacher’s guide that available on the site.)

If you’re finding the same lack of knowledge where you live that I found in Florida, your schools need this Bill of Rights video.

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