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Wendy: Welcome to our next episode of Provo City School District’s ‘Sup With the Sup!” Today is September 15th, 2023. I am Superintendent Wendy Dau, and we have an exciting episode for you this week.
Wendy: Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a new law which states that the month of September is “American Founders and Constitution Month”. This is in addition to Constitution Day, which has long been recognized on September 17th. My guests today are here to talk about how the Constitution is taught and celebrated in our schools.
But before I introduce them, let’s go over our updates.
The Provo City School District theme for this year is “Find Your Swing,” from the book, The Boys in the Boat. I mentioned in an earlier episode that I wanted to hold a contest for students to design a pin representing this theme to be awarded to everyone who reads the book. The contest is officially here. Students can submit their best artwork representing the Find Your Swing theme for a chance to have your design Showcased on the pin. Artwork can be turned into your school’s main office by Wednesday, December 13th, 2023.
- SEP conferences for secondary schools are coming up on September 19th and 20th. There was an adjustment to the date for Timpview’s conferences, so Timpview families, please look for more information to be coming from the school.
- Continue to check your school’s website, calendar, and social media for important information and dates.
- If you qualify for free or reduced lunch, remember to send in your application within the first 30 days of school. This process needs to be completed each year.
- Please remember to update your information in PowerSchool, which we also need to have done annually.
- The next school board meeting will be an all-day meeting on Friday, September 29th. Meetings like this are usually an all-day study session, allowing the school board to discuss items in more detail. The meetings are open to the public and broadcast on YouTube.
- The Provo Foundation’s “Links for Kids” golf tournament will be held on September 28th. If you are interested in participating, please visit foundation.provo.edu.
- A weekly videocast from me will also be showcased on Friday.
This week, we didn’t have any questions from our community, so I want to do a few shoutouts. First, Teaching and Learning was recognized by the state for being one of five districts that had outstanding reading and literacy outcomes. We will showcase more information about that on our website.
A big shout out to Momi Tu’ua and Seralina McCormick-Danielson, who received scholarships from the Utah Retirement System; so great job, Momi and Seralina. Momi is the Principal at Timpview High School, and Seralina McCormick-Danielson is a teacher at Canyon Crest Elementary.
Today, in our podcast, we are showcasing the Constitution. I am here with Amanda Eskeets, a Social Studies teacher at Centennial Middle School, and Will Weidner, a student and our Student Board Representative for Provo City School District. He is from Timpview High School, and we are here to talk about The Constitution.
Wendy: Who’s excited?
Amanda: I’m excited.
Will: I’m very excited.
Wendy: Oh, you guys have to sound more excited!
Wendy: Okay, so let’s start by having each one of you tell us a little bit about yourselves. So, let’s start with you, Amanda.
Amanda: Okay, um, I’m Amanda Eskeets. I grew up here in Utah, and this is my 11th year teaching in the district. I’ve been at Centennial the whole time.
Amanda: I love it—Centennial’s like my family. I teach U. S. History. For the last two years, I’ve been teaching Gifted U.S. History. I teach several electives as well. I’m married, and I have two little kids.
Wendy: Awesome. Welcome to our show! Will?
Will: Okay. So yeah, I’m a senior at Timpview High School. I’m involved in Debate, Model U.N., and a lot of stuff like that. I’m also a student member of the board. I’m excited about being able to do that.
Wendy: All right, here we go. To celebrate the fact that September 17th is Constitution Day, the month of September has been designated by the Utah State Legislature as American Founders and Constitution Month, we are going to be focusing on the Constitution.
Wendy: So we’re going to start with a little discussion about the Constitution, and then we’re going to have a trivia game. So I’m very excited about that part. So first, what do you feel is one of the most important parts of the Constitution and why, and maybe why it’s something that’s important to you, personally?
Will: I’d probably say a good old Fourteenth Amendment: equal protection, due process. Those are really big parts of our civic system, making sure that everyone has the same rights as everyone else.
Wendy: Love it. I love that you knew that was in the Fourteenth Amendment.
Amanda: For me, it’s probably the preamble. I love the Constitution’s Preamble because it’s the promise of what our government should be. It really builds on the beauty of the ideas in the Declaration of Independence.
Wendy: I love that. I’m going to ask some more questions about the Preamble in a minute.
Wendy: What do you feel is one part of the Constitution that is sometimes overlooked?
Will: Most overlooked, I’d say, is the Ninth Amendment. It’s not codified rights at all. There could be applications in the future for rights. I don’t know exactly how that process would work, but maybe at making sure everyone has their rights.
Wendy: So, do you want to give us a quick summary of the Ninth Amendment? Not everyone’s a constitutional scholar like you are, Will.
Will: The Ninth Amendment is the constitutional Amendment that basically says it’s in the Bill of Rights, right that “we’ve listed some rights here, yeah– but there’s some others that exist, we’re just not going to list them.”
Wendy: That’s kind of led to a lot of openness for interpretation as to what those rights are. All right. I love it. Go ahead, Amanda.
Amanda: I think for me that it’s a living document. We overlook a lot of times that when the Constitution was signed on September 17th, 1787, the signers knew that the Constitution was going to be changed almost immediately because that was a condition for them signing that the Bill of Rights was added.
Amanda: A lot of countries don’t have the ability to change the laws and function of their government. And that really puts them at a disadvantage. We’re coming up close to 250 years since the Constitution was written, and the world has changed dramatically since I was born. I can’t imagine if we were locked into certain things and didn’t have the potential for our country to grow and evolve as the world grows and evolves.
Wendy And so that that growth and that change happens because of legislation that gets passed. It happens because of Supreme Court decisions. It also happens because of amendments– although it hasn’t been amended many times, right? Twenty-seven, if I remember correctly– it’s been over ten years since I’ve taught us history, so thank you for your patience with me.
Wendy: So what is one part of the Constitution that you believe creates a lot of controversy or maybe even angst for people? And do you see that there might be a way to resolve that?
Will: Well, I think the examples I brought up of the Fourteenth and Ninth Amendment are pretty controversial, especially if you look back at the Robert Bork Confirmation Hearing with the Ninth Amendment. And with the Fourteenth Amendment, you’ve got cases like Griswold versus Connecticut and Roe versus Wade– all of those privacy cases are huge and fairly controversial.
Wendy: Oh, even, even listing specific Supreme Court cases, the teachers have done a good job in educating you. And I’m guessing you’ve also done a lot of research on your own.
Amanda: I would say it’s the Electoral College. I think the Electoral College was a brilliant idea when it was created. Our country has changed a lot since then. There are valid arguments for keeping it. There are valid arguments for considering revising things. Having our government take over a month before we can come together and officially declare a president-elect seems a little archaic in our world of instant information and instant communication. When the Electoral College was implemented, people thought of themselves as members of their states first and American second.
Amanda: But, overwhelmingly, we’ve seen that that’s changed. So many recent presidential elections in the last twenty-five years have come down to the electoral college and haven’t always followed the popular vote.
Amanda: I foresee this becoming more and more contentious before we finally resolve it. I think everyone’s just grumbling about it, and there hasn’t been a real conversation on “Are we keeping it, or are we getting rid of it?” And so everyone’s grumpy about it without coming to a solution yet.
Wendy: Well, we’re usually grumpy with it if it results in a candidate becoming president that we didn’t want, and we’re great with it when it results in our candidate winning.
Amanda: Exactly! We have a hard time putting our political opinions and agendas aside to think about what we should do as a country. But ultimately, eventually, we’re either going to do something, or we’re not going to do something.
Wendy: So that’s an excellent point. And it would be very difficult to amend the Constitution in my mind when we’re looking at what that process entails, especially in our political climate. So that’s– wow.
Amanda: Can you imagine 38 states all agreeing on something right now? Because to me, that seems very far-fetched.
Wendy: I agree with you. That seems overwhelming at this point.
Wendy: We know that the Constitution created the government for the United States, which is why it’s so important. That’s kind of obvious. But can you think of other reasons why the Constitution is such a fundamental part of our identity?
William: Well, the Constitution is founded on those basic Lockean principles, right?
“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” or “property,” whichever version you go with. That hadn’t been seen since the Declaration of Independence, but the fact that it was then constructed into a form of government– that’s just crazy.
Wendy: It was very different for that period. Go ahead, Amanda.
Amanda: I think one of the reasons why it’s so important to us is because a lot of the men that are important in that generation had a hand in the Constitution, where the Declaration can be argued as mostly the work of one man, Thomas Jefferson.
Amanda: I mean, he had other people who looked at it and gave him suggestions, but it was his work. The Constitution, in contrast, is a document of fifty-five men from all over who came together and compromised.
Amanda: And the fact that Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton– and, of course, George Washington– because if he hadn’t been at the convention, the entire thing would have fallen apart at the beginning. I think that has helped it to become much more symbolic to us than just setting up our basic system of government.
Wendy: Oh, I love that. You brought up how it represented disparate viewpoints in many cases, right? And they’re coming together and realizing, “Look, the Articles of Confederation are not working. We need to figure something else out by being able to put aside some of their wants or maybe their own ideas to embrace something bigger than themselves. So, that’s great. Thank you.
Wendy: This goes back to Amanda’s comment about the Preamble, but why do you think the Constitution begins with, “We the People?”
Will: It goes back to the Lockean principles, right? It’s the “Social Contract Theory.” People give up a few of their rights in exchange for getting certain rights from the government.
Amanda: I would agree. The Articles of Confederation started by listing each state individually, and the Articles of Confederation clearly failed. So when they were doing the Constitution, they went back to the Declaration of Independence and to those principles, and to the idea of democracy in general, that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed, and that The Constitution is a representation of the American people, allowing the government to be in charge.
Wendy: Wow. We picked the right people for this podcast.
Wendy: So one of the tensions that exists in our government is the power of the states versus the power of the federal government. What does the Constitution say about this tension? Can you think of an example of how this plays out, why it sometimes creates this controversy, and what we can do to resolve that?
Will: The Constitution brings up Article One: Section 8. These are the powers of Congress. And then, later in the Tenth Amendment, it says that the states have everything else.
Will: The Constitution is pretty clear that Congress has these powers. The states have their own powers.
Will: But then there are some areas where they overlap– like the ability to regulate interstate commerce has been blown out of the water, in terms of what it means, but I think when we look at what things have come from that power, we were like, “Oh yeah, we like this, things like social security, that’s kind of important.”
Will: So yeah, a wide variety of programs that have come from the federal government– you know, founders probably would have thought that was a state thing. Resolving that tension will be pretty difficult because the states are always like, “I want more power; you’re taking it from me!”
Wendy: Excellent. Go ahead, Amanda.
Amanda: The Constitution is very clear that if a state law is ever in contradiction with a federal law, the federal law wins. It’s the Supremacy Clause. But I think more than that, we have a precedent in U.S. History because of the Civil War– because the Civil War is really looking at the question, not just of secession, but also of nullification.
Amanda: Does a state have the right to ignore a federal law that it does not like? And that was a resounding “no.” The federal government always wins in any sort of conflict.
Amanda: Even though we have those precedents, it doesn’t mean we always follow them. I think right now, one of the major issues that’s fascinating to look at from a constitutional perspective is the legalization of marijuana.
Amanda: I took students to a D.C. trip in June, and while we were there, some of our students were wondering what the smell was. That’s when we got to educate our delightful sheltered students that that was, in fact, marijuana that they were smelling. At first, they were concerned, but then we looked it up and saw it was legal in the District of Columbia. But, of course, it’s illegal under federal law.
Amanda: So– having that vast contrast and dichotomy in the nation’s capital– where marijuana is federally illegal– we’re walking past the Supreme Court building and the U.S. Capitol and the White House, but at the same time, the District of Columbia and many states– including Utah, for medical purposes– have legalized marijuana.
Amanda: I think it will be very interesting to see how that goes. I believe that the federal government has recently decided to make marijuana a lower classification of a drug. But again, under Utah law, if you have a cannabis card, you can purchase and use medical marijuana, but under federal law that is illegal.
Wendy: So it also brings up this idea that tension only exists if the federal government chooses to pursue something. Or, somebody sues a state, for example, for passing a law that is in contradiction to the federal government. If nobody does that, that law stays on the books and is just kind of left alone until someone challenges it. Would I be correct in that assumption?
Amanda: A hundred percent. And right now, what we’ve seen is the federal government has had bigger fish to fry. That has not been something they are ready to get into a drawn-out argument with the states. By a lot of the recent decisions, it seems like they’re maybe sort of capitulating a little bit more towards the states where they’re going to start– you know, they’re like, “Well, if all of the states want this, then maybe we should lessen the federal law.”
Amanda: I think it will be very interesting to see what this state is ten years from now.
Wendy: I think one of the things, too, is when I’ve worked with students on this concept, too, even cases that go before the Supreme Court, we look at that one of the things that Supreme Court justices have to take into account is what is the stomach of the people for a particular ruling, right?
Wendy: So sometimes they will take that into consideration as they’re analyzing a particular law and say, “Well, yes, technically this is the case, but we’re not quite there yet as a nation to wholeheartedly embrace this.” You don’t want to enforce something if you’re not seeing that there’s a large portion of the population that’s going to be supportive of it.
Wendy: So I think you’re seeing that with that example of marijuana for sure.
Wendy: Give me an example of something in the Constitution that you feel applies in your daily life. Because sometimes people think, “Oh, it’s presidential elections, or this is something that’s really beyond me,” but what would be something that you feel on a daily basis is applicable?
Amanda: I think the Bill of Rights. As I’m teaching U.S. history this year, we’re talking about the “quartering of soldiers” or something like that. A lot of times, we don’t think about it because the Bill of Rights grants us protection from having to think about it.
Amanda: We don’t have to worry that what we’re going to say is going to land us in jail, as long as we’re not lying and not threatening—those types of things. But just a basic, “Here’s how I feel about a particular candidate or a particular politician,” is not going to land us in huge trouble.
Amanda: We don’t have to worry about quartering soldiers, and we have our right to privacy and security. And the Fourth Amendment: we know that we cannot be unfairly thrown in jail and that there’s a bunch of due process protections. For me, it’s really the absence of fear and absence of worry that the Constitution grants us. We obviously take it for granted because most of us have been lucky enough to live in a world with those protections our entire lives.
Amanda: When you look at other periods, or you look at other areas, then it becomes very, very clear just how lucky we are to have those and to have it be something that we take for granted.
Will: I say for me, as a student, my biggest thing would be Freedom of Speech because I’m seventeen, I can’t vote yet, and part of my role on the school board is that I can use my voice. I can inform people of what students are thinking and what I’m thinking, and make sure that when policy is being developed, students are actually considered as a stakeholder.
Wendy: Absolutely. Are you familiar with the Tinker versus Des Moines Independent Community School District case? Can you describe it for us? Because it goes along with what you’re talking about.
Amanda: I can tell you the basics of it, but it’s Tinker v. Des Moines, right? I’d actually love to hear you explain it to us.
Wendy: Well, my understanding– if I have the case right– the Tinker case is about the armband from the Vietnam War where the students were wearing the armband, and the school tried to prohibit them from doing so.
Wendy: What the Supreme Court said was that it protects students’ right to speech in a school setting, as long as it’s not creating a disruption. The argument that the school made was, “well, it is creating a disruption,” but actually, it didn’t. So you can’t ban something because you think it will create a disruption, you can only act on it when it does create a disruption, which gives a lot of protection to students in terms of their right to speech. I hope I got that right. It’s a case that we deal with as principals and superintendents all the time. It’s probably more at the forefront of what I’m thinking of.
Amanda: One of the things I love about teaching middle school is that students get so impassioned about things as they learn about it. I always end up giving my principal a heads up when we’re talking about the Bill of Rights because then usually there’s an influx of student petitions going around or students talking about, “Well, could we protest this?” I’m like, “Well, you have to make sure it doesn’t restrict anybody else’s right to an education. Because in an educational environment, someone’s right to safety and right to education comes first. But yes, you do get a voice. You do get to voice your opinions.”
Wendy: I appreciate that you’re giving your administration a heads up that this is what you’re talking about, and this is why.
Amanda: Exactly. Like, “Okay, we did the First Amendment and we talked about petitions. Just so you know, if you all of a sudden get a lot of emails from students with petitions, that would be why, and I’m sorry.” But they’ve always been great sports about it because they’re like, “Well, we love that students are internalizing this,” and that students are like, “Oh, I do have the power to do these things. This is how you can enact change.”
Wendy: That’s incredible. So I appreciate that.
Wendy: Okay. Are you guys willing to do a little quiz show with me about the Constitution?
Will: Of course!
Amanda: Let’s go.
Wendy: We’re going to see if you are smarter than a sixth grader at the Constitution. These are sixth-grade level questions. So here we go.
Wendy: Will, do Senators have to be men?
Will: I don’t think they do.
Wendy: It should have been a resounding no, Will. Come on! That wasn’t even really a serious question.
Wendy: What branch of the government is the president the head of?
Will: The executive.
Wendy: Very good. Okay.
Wendy: What is the purpose– this is for Amanda– of the legislative branch?
Amanda: The legislative branch makes laws.
Wendy: Very good. Will, how long is the president’s term?
Will: Four years.
Wendy: Excellent. This isn’t about the Constitution, by the way, but why are there thirteen stripes on the flag?
Amanda: Because there were thirteen original colonies and then thirteen original states.
Wendy: Excellent. You guys are smart. Okay. Let’s see. Oh, this is one of my favorite ones. Which Amendment gives women the right to vote?
Will: the 19th.
Wendy: Oh my gosh. You’re so genius. And that’s so important. Good job. Okay, Amanda, which Amendment ended slavery?
Amanda: The 13th Amendment. I can’t stump either one of you. This is incredible. Will, how long does a Supreme Court justice serve for?
Will: Well and Good Behavior– So that’s historically meant for life. Yeah.
Wendy: Or until they decide to peace out or say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” But most of them die being Supreme Court justices.
Wendy: Amanda, how were senators originally elected in the Constitution?
Amanda: They were originally chosen by the state legislatures until they decided that that wasn’t as democratic as it could be. They decided to have them elected by each state just like representatives were.
Wendy: Oh, you guys are so genius. I want to say the 17th Amendment. Am I right in that? See, I do remember things! This is good. Okay.
Wendy: Will, how many articles are there in the Constitution?
Will: There are seven articles and then twenty-seven Articles of Amendment.
Wendy: Genius. I love that you even knew the difference between the two of those. Amanda, tell us what are the two houses in the legislative branch and how long are each of their terms.
Amanda: The lower house is the House of Representatives, and their term is two years. Every even year is an election year for them. The upper house is the Senate, and their term is six years.
Wendy: Oh my goodness. I don’t think I will be able to ask a question that stumps you. Maybe you guys can find a question that’ll stump me. Oh, you definitely can. I’m going to challenge you. Can you stump the superintendent?
Will: What article and clause would you find the Full Faith and Credit Clause?
Wendy: Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. Oh, man. I don’t know which article or– nope, you stumped the superintendent. I love it so much. Tell me what it is.
Will: I believe it’s Article 4: Section 1.
Wendy: And she’s nodding. Amanda’s saying yes.
Amanda: I would have to double-check on this section, but Article 4.
Wendy: Oh, is our fact checker checking this out? Yes!
Wendy: Well, you guys are amazing. I just want to say thank you so much for being on our podcast to talk about the Constitution. This has been really fun for me, so I really appreciate your time.
Wendy: Is there anything you want to say, shout-outs to anybody, or any last thoughts on the Constitution you want to share?
Will: I think the Constitution is really important. I’d like to thank all the teachers that have helped me learn the Constitution, especially.
Will: This is Riley Hanni, who really helped me get started into wondering about government and really got me interested in politics, which led to me being on the school board. So, yeah.
Amanda: And I’ll definitely have to send the link to this to her because she will love that. I think for me, It’s been in the news a lot lately; discussions over Social Studies teachers and where things fall in the political process.
Amanda: And I guess I just really want to emphasize that, number one, teachers in social studies genuinely love social studies. There is no way that I would be teaching about U.S. History and the U.S. Constitution every single year if I didn’t love it. I love it. And I love sharing that enthusiasm with people.
Amanda: The goal of education in general, and why public education exists, is to make sure that the upcoming generation of citizens is prepared to take over those leadership roles– that they understand what our government is, and they understand how the constitution works.
Amanda: I have high hopes for the future. I feel like the students in Provo City School District are incredible, bright, and excited about things. I get very excited when I think about the future and this next generation being able to step into these leadership roles. It’s going to be a fulfilling time.
Wendy: Did you hear that? She’s very excited for you to become a leader, Will, as you already are, you’re demonstrating those leadership skills. I think one of the things that I was talking with my dad about– my dad’s an immigrant from Denmark– and I was saying, “How do you feel about the United States of America?” And he’s like, “It’s the best country.” He goes, “You just have to recognize that. And what was interesting was what he said: “The United States of America isn’t a perfect country. It has the potential to be so amazing, and it just keeps marching on this path of progress. It’s okay that there are still things we’re trying to figure out, but it still is the best place to live in the world.”
Wendy: “It doesn’t mean we have to give up. Our culture or heritage is part of it; we can be part of all those things.” That’s what’s awesome about it. So, I appreciate you guys sharing that sentiment here today. Thank you again. It’s been a real pleasure to have you on the podcast.
Wendy: Thank you, everyone, for joining me for this episode of ‘Sup with the ‘Sup. In case you couldn’t tell, I was pretty excited about this episode as I was a former Social Studies Teacher.
Wendy: As always, all episodes will be posted on Spotify, YouTube, and the district website. If you have any topics or questions you would like us to discuss on the podcast, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy: Please don’t forget to join us for our next episode on Friday, September 22nd, where I will talk with Rianna Russell, a student at Independence High School. She will be talking about all of the great programs and opportunities at Independence High, as well as talking about her Native American heritage.
Wendy: I will also be talking with Principal Griffin, who will talk about why Independence might be a great option for many of our students here in Provo City School District, so stay tuned. We look forward to seeing you next week.