Over the last several months we have witnessed history happening in our country that has not happened since the Civil War. It is United States history in the making. Do you remember your U.S. history classes? How well do you know the Constitution and amendments and what they stand for? Yes, there are those who do understand really well and those who think they know them, and those who really don’t know. What does the First Amendment really mean?

In many schools dealing with remote learning, especially at the elementary ages, the teaching of social studies has sadly taken a back seat. Understanding the schools are doing their best in these unprecedented times, now is a great time for all of us to review what our founders felt would make us a leading country. The United States is a network of people and cultures working together for the betterment of the world and was designed 246 years ago knowing the country would grow and change. Have we taken it for granted?

We as adults should use this opportunity to refresh ourselves and bring our children into the discussion of what it means to be a United States citizen. Below are some general questions along with resources you might consider when locating and fact-checking yourself. There are many ways of using the internet to search and locate information. Engaging with your children on this quest will give them a stronger understanding of just how to locate and discuss information about questions that develop during their life.

Our government is built on three areas: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the amendments. Understanding them and discussing why they were written might provide for a better understanding of just why our government operates the way it does along with what our responsibilities are as United States citizens.

The Constitution: When and where was it written? Who were the authors? How many parts are there in the Constitution?

The Bill of Rights: What is the “Bill of Rights”? Who were the authors and why? Do they still apply today? How?

Amendments: What are constitutional amendments? Who and how can you make an amendment? How many amendments are there? You hear people say, “It’s my First Amendment right.” What does that mean?

How do the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the amendments impact our daily lives? Do they really mean what you assumed they did? What are some ways you might be able to support our government? We are a diverse country made of multiple cultures each having its own perspective and understanding. Over the last couple of months has our government been in jeopardy? These are all questions we should reflect on as Americans, United States citizens, and how these issues could be peacefully addressed.

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Scott Smith is a Umatilla County educator with 40-plus years of experience. He taught at McNary Heights Elementary School and then for Eastern Oregon University in its teacher education program at Blue Mountain Community College. He serves on the Decoding Dyslexia Oregon board as its parent/teacher liaison.

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