How Would Justice Scalia Change High School Civics?

July 31st, 2012

Make students read the Federalist. All of it.

LAMB: We have a group of teachers here this summer and I asked them what they would ask you and they said they want to know what you would advise teachers – what you would advise teachers – how they should teach the constitution.

SCALIA: Well, these are teachers – what level?

LAMB: Oh, they’re high school.

SCALIA: Oh, high school? Oh, okay.

LAMB: Maybe, how would you want the constitution taught in high schools?

SCALIA: Well, first of all, I am appalled that Americans get out of high school, get out of college, even get out of law school without ever having read the federalist papers.

I mean, thing number one, if – if you want to have the proper respect, and indeed awe that you ought to have for the United States Constitution – thing number one is to realize how brilliant were the men who put that piece of work together and that shines through in the Federalist Papers.

I am always astounded – I can ask a group of law students, ”How many of you have read the Federalist Papers,” and you know, it’s maybe 6 percent or something like that. You should not be able to get out of high school without being exposed to what the Framers thought they were doing.

LAMB: Do you have to – is it really something you should read in high school; the whole thing?

SCALIA: The whole thing, yes. People read, you know, number 48, the famous numbers. But, only if you read the whole thing do you realize what a breath of knowledge these people had.

They were not doing it be the seat of the pants. They – they had experience in various systems of government in this country and abroad and from that experience they deduced, or they applied what James Madison called at the convention.

He says, ”Gentlemen, we are engaged in the new science of government.” Nobody had ever tried that before and people ought to appreciate that. This – it had never happened before and it will probably never happen again that a system of government will be devised by a seminar.

I mean, a three month long seminar composed of the political leaders of the entire country. That won’t happen again. And you can’t appreciate that unless you seep yourself in the times, including reading the Federalist Papers.

The Founders Constitution–which required reading the entire Federalist and most of the Anti-Federalist–was required at GMU.