constitutional thinking

National Academy 2017: Questions, Answers and More Questions

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In today’s political forum, no one is looking to start another argument. It’s still true, however, that a good argument can make all the difference in what happens next. Good arguments require connecting ideas. Listening to one another and thinking through a logical framework together. When we avoid arguing reasonably together, we also turn away the connectedness and empathy it cultivates. Sadly, Election 2016 has us all imagining partisan battle stations with perfectly calibrated talking points. One good argument could bridge the gap between fighting one another and thinking together. Good arguments rely on good questions. One good question could…

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A school based on Constitutional Citizenship

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Those of you at the second week of James Madison and Constitutional Citizenship at Montpelier may have heard about my school and our work with Professor Harris. Our charter high school was created by a group of parents in 1998 with a mission to teach citizenship. From the beginning we tried to fulfill this mission by incorportaing lots of civic education and community service into our curriculum as well as trying to think about the skills and dispositions of a good citizen that we wanted to foster in our students. However, our efforts felt disparate and we felt as if…

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On Theory, Poetry, and the American Constitution

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I think to appreciate or even tolerate this post you have to accept at face value Will Harris’s assertion that Americans “live in a theory.” The theory is derived from the Constitution and includes such central organizing ideas as innovation, wholeness, inquiry, optimism, order, deliberation, and covenant to name a small and perhaps unrepresentative subset. Generally speaking, a theory has the following components: 1. It organizes communication. 2. It organizes ideas. 3. It generates new ideas. 4. It displays the complexities of a problem. 5. It guides investigation. 6. It generates explanations and predictions. This stuff is nothing new to…

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How I Realized I Was a Federalist (or Christmas in July)

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Once upon a time, there was a beast. He chose to live on the outskirts of society; he chose to let his anger fester. He watched and he boiled as the people lived their lives, free and happy. One day, however, the people’s joy stabbed him so fiercely that he decided to strike back. He terrorized the people: he invaded their sanctity and tried to destroy their world. What does the paragraph describe..? Osama bin Laden? A gangbanger? A bullied student who phones in a threat? Each fits. What’s crucial, though, is what happened next… The people, realizing that they’d…

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