Last year, I asked a student in my separation of powers seminar what the President should do if he wants to change the law, but Congress will not vote for it. His answer: “Sign an executive order.” I was at once stunned and depressed. With that answer, I realized an entire generation of students will come of age with more familiar with the pen-and-phone than the checks-and-balances. And that stuck in my craw.
The Washington Times invited a number of leaders in civic education to write about the Presidency and the Constitution. (Kudos to my colleague Julie Silverbrook at Consource for organizing this impressive undertaking). I decided to explore this topic further.
My entry is titled “Unteaching Professor Obama’s Constitutional Lessons.” Here is a snippet:
President Obama’s illegal executive actions concerning the Affordable Care Act, education and immigration have inflicted irreparable damage to the rule of law. But his disregard of the Constitution has an even more troubling implication for today’s youth.
A generation ago, ABC-TV’s animated “Schoolhouse Rock!” taught children that the law is changed when the legislature and president agree.
Today, Professor Obama teaches a different lesson: When Congress refuses to enact my agenda, I will use my pen and phone to bypass them.
As today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders, the role of civic education becomes all the more critical to ensure that the checks and balances continue to prevail over the pen and phone.
The president, himself a former constitutional law lecturer, should be far more careful when he brazenly teaches students across the country that the separation of powers can be ignored when the ends justify the means. Long after DAPA is gone, this tragic lesson will linger in the hearts and minds of our citizenry, and our republic will be worse off for it.
Or, if you want the short-version, watch this SNL parody of “Schoolhouse Rock.”