Newly in print: Peter Levine, “Putting the US Constitution in Its Place,” in Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America, edited by Carol McNamara and Trevor Shelly (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2022), pp. 281-292.
Almost all American students are required to study the formal structure of the US government, and most perform fairly well on concrete, factual questions about the Constitution. But there is much more for competent citizens to learn. After I explore some valid reasons to include the Constitution in required curricula, I argue that the document provides a poor framework for civics as a whole, giving students a distorted view of the social world and failing to motivate them for ethical civic engagement. I conclude with a sketch of a curriculum in which the US Constitution has a place, but a fairly modest one.
See also: on teaching the US Constitution; the Citizens United decision and the inadequate sociology of the US Constitution; liberals, conservatives, and love of the Constitution; is our constitutional order doomed?; constitutional piety, etc.