Constitution of the United States: A Study Guide
by John Chambers
After completing this book, you'll have read and understood the entire U.S. Constitution! This is a study guide for a high school course in the U.S. Constitution. Throughout it are Exercises, some you can do alone but others are designed for classroom participation.
By dictionary definition, a constitution is "the way something is set up." The U.S. Constitution is more than a document. It is also the way our government is set up, its constitution.
The first chapters (or "lessons" if you will) familiarize the student with the purpose of, and a brief history of, governments. The remaining lessons are a reading of the Constitution itself.
Before each of these lessons is a brief explanation of the section of the Constitution being covered and KEY WORDS in the section. The text of the Constitution for that lesson comes next with thought-provoking notes and questions in the margins. At the end of the text are additional explanations, historical notes and so on. The lesson ends with an Exercise of questions to answer. At the end of the book is a Glossary containing most of the unusual words used in the Constitution.
It is possible to view the Constitution (or anything) from many different angles; to look at something, one must take a point of view. For instance, you can look at automobiles from the angle of how fast they go, or how safe they are, or how much they impress the neighbors.
If this book had the title The Automobile (a Study Guide), you would expect to find out what cars are used for, maybe a brief history, and a tour of the steering wheel, tires, engine, and so on. You would expect to learn that cars run on fuel but you would hope not to get into the physics of carburetors or a comparison of carburetors to fuel injection.
To understand some parts, say a windshield, it may be necessary to understand differing ideas about cars in general. For instance, when designing an automobile, some will go for speed while others will consider safety. The speed demon will say that the purpose of the windshield is to allow the car to go faster. The safety nut will insist it is to protect the driver. Both are right. But until the speed-versus-safety controversy is examined, a windshield is just a piece of glass. Suddenly, in the light of the controversy, you understand the windshield better.
To understand the Constitution, one must understand differing ideas about how and why governments are formed. From John Chambers' point of view, there has been one basic controversy which existed before the Constitution was written, was debated hotly while it was being adopted, has plagued it from the beginning, and is still with us today. Political battles in the press, on talk radio and on TV still center on this controversy. You feel the effects of it today (which is probably why you feel the need to understand our Constitution better). You are trying to solve that controversy.
Just as designing automobiles requires a constant balance of speed versus safety, Constitutional government requires a balance between a strong central government and a government limited by individual liberties. At the beginning of this country, Alexander Hamilton worked for a strong central government while Thomas Jefferson considered individual liberties more important. John Chambers believes it is the balance of strong central government versus individual liberties which underlies all Constitutional issues.
In presenting the Constitution, the author views it from the angle of this balancing act. From that angle, he believes you will gain a better understanding. Of course, it can be viewed from different points. (And has been. Try viewing it through the lens of Freudian Analysis -- talk about bizzare!)
John Chambers feels his job is to present the Constitution from the angle he can find. You may find a better point of view. If you do, take it. His promise is that to the best of his ability, when you complete this book, you will have read and understood the entire U.S. Constitution.