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A.B.A. Calls for Continued Study of Constitution

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A report by the American Bar Association calls for widespread efforts to promote studies of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights long past their bicentennial celebrations.

"The commitment of public and private agencies to high-quality constitutional education in elementary and secondary schools must continue beyond the bicentennial period," says the report, which was released last month.

"If not," it warns, "there is the risk of continued underuse, perhaps even the loss, of enormous investment of educational resources." Experts say the bicentennial period from 1987-91 has produced a wealth of high-quality instructional resources in constitutional education. (See Education Week, Dec. 4, 1991.)

But impact of these efforts on students' understanding of the subject has been "far too limited," according to the A.B.A. report.

The report was the product of a national conference held in September by the association.

Not meant to represent the organization's official opinion, it synthesizes views expressed at the conference by a wide range of leaders in social studies, civics, and law-related education. The Smithsonian Institution's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education co-sponsored the symposium.

'An Essential Part'

Among some of the efforts called for in the report were: . The development of voluntary national standards and frameworks for education on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights;

  • Requiring all precollegiate teachers--not just social-studies teachers--to have pre-service education in citizenship education, with an emphasis on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights;
  • The formation of a national coalition, to be organized by the A.B.A.'S Special Committee on Youth Education for Citizenship, to promote and support improved teaching in the subject; and
  • Continued dissemination of high-quality supplemental instructional materials emphasizing "intellectually active" approaches to the subject and training for teachers in how to use those materials.

"Study of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be an essential part of the elementary- and secondary-school curriculum," the report says, "as essential as English, math, and science."

Information on obtaining copies of the report can be obtained from: A.B.A./Y.E.F.C. 541 North Fairbanks Court, Chicago, Ill. 60611-3314. Telephone: (312) 988-5032.

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