Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Slap in the Face or Saving Grace?

By Shawn Healy
When Senator Robert Byrd attached a rider to the 2004 Omnibus spending bill mandating instruction specific to the United States Constitution each year on September 17th in all publicly-funded educational institutions, as a government teacher and self-described constitutional scholar, I greeted the development with a small dose of resentment. After all, I devoted my career to teaching the Constitution, spending each day of the school year on the structures of our federal system dictated by the document and the limitations on government power spelled out within and throughout the recipient Bill of Rights. I thought, to shortchange the oldest written Constitution in the world to a single day is a slap in the face.

I have since left the classroom for the contemporary, media-intensive, and interactive exhibits of the Freedom Museum, but my mission to spread the gospel of the Founding Fathers has only grown. With the transition, my view of Constitution Day has since evolved. Educational institutions like the Freedom Museum have been given a great gift by the unofficial Senate historian and constitutional champion, Mr. Byrd. We now have a niche market to which we can sell the wonders of our founding freedoms and the defects neglected in the wake of our nation’s birth.

Our second annual teacher resource fair on September 11, 2007, is motivated by this very ideal. Attendees will have access to our exhibit and educational outreach, but also to resources from dozens of our peer organizations, all of whom offer materials meant to enhance the quality of the educational experience in classrooms throughout the country. I anticipate that you will walk away with lesson plan ideas, templates, and supplementary resources to meet the federal mandate six days later, not to mention the balance of the 2007-2008 school year. In the process, I urge you to join us in our efforts to make every day Constitution Day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate the work of those who encourage knowledge of the Constitution and respect for the Constitution.

The presidential campaign of Ron Paul has also encouraged many to study and consider the Constitution. I expect there will be a lot of interest on Monday.

I wonder, though. Is the Byrd's mandate constitutional?

2:44 PM  

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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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