Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Know Your Rights

A friend of mine recently made a point in a post on his FaceBook page that dovetails with a message I teach my Civics students.

In explaining to them why we are a Constitutional Republic, as opposed to a Democracy, I start by asking them where they think their rights come from. As you might expect from young people many of them say, "The government." OK, I respond, if the government can give you rights what else can the government do? Within seconds the reply is, "It can take them away." Right, so do you want to stay with your original answer? Heads start shaking.

I then go on to explain that you are BORN with certain "unalienable" rights. Now not everyone is born in a country and into a system that is designed to recognize and protect those rights, but that does not change the fact that you are born with those rights. I then ask them to tell me what they think one or more of those rights might be. Their answers often mirror the Bill of Rights. I then explain that if we were a Democracy then the mob would rule and those rights could be taken away with a vote. Thus, you would really have no rights other than what the majority are willing to allow you.

In a Republic the government recognizes those rights, even if ALL of them are not enumerated, and swears to protect them. So, even if a majority were to vote to take away one of your rights, they would not be allowed to, as it is an unalienable right and thus protected by the government. I use a few examples to illustrate my point and by the time I am finished they understand the concept of a Republic vs. a Democracy.

Sadly, far too many adults in this country seem to think that our rights are malleable. That they can be changed on a whim and by a simple majority vote. I believe that this is by design, as they are primarily products of a public school system that is more concerned with compliance than it is with thinking. My students are taught to think and follow things through to their logical conclusions. Whether or not I am successful in this effort remains to be seen, but I do make the effort.