Tag Archives: US Constitution

In reply: “Gone Missing” Letter to the Editor

In Re: Curriculum for the 21st Century: a reply to C.D. Rinck Sr.’s Letter to the Editor, March 21, 2018.

D. Rinck of Mission, KS, has a valid point. He asked, “ What happened to all those government checks and balances I was taught in high school?”

He goes on reflecting on his own education, “”They must have suffered the same fate as diagramming a sentence as I learned in English Class.”

Rinck should be concerned. Having taught for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2015, I have taught both—how to diagram sentences and the US Constitution. I also taught journalism.

The Constitution provides the clear separation of powers as a means of preventing any one branch from taking control. The checks and balance system is critical to a democracy including the republican democracy of the United States.

At no point should one branch have power over any other branch. In Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments to the National Press Club last week, the same topic of checks and balance is referenced.

Flake said, “Defending democratic institutions ought not to be a controversial idea, and hasn’t been until very recently. But recognizing that our institutions are under threat from within, with clarity, seems to me a basic obligation of the Article I branch of government—the congress, whose power is, in theory, equal to that of the president’s…”

Jennifer Rubin, from The Washington Post, was published in the KC Star editorial, “The problem: Flake can’t win in today’s Trump GOP” also focused on checks and balance.

American textbooks include the principle of checks and balance as a primary theme to be taught in civics and government classes. The class used to be taught juniors not freshmen as it is today. (And as an aside, I question whether freshmen are developmentally prepared to discuss the theory or to fully comprehend the value of the US Constitution.)

The American checks and balance system has also included an additional watchdog—freedom of speech that includes professional journalism. I taught journalism as the social responsibility as I was taught at MU during the mid-1970s. Journalists are to report the news objectively not subjectively, unless in editorials.

Our schools must teach students how to be critical readers, good communicators, and independent thinkers. I am concerned that emphasizing technology education and student achievement testing undermines what education must be.

Language curriculum needs to include sentence diagramming again. Diagramming teaches students how words communicate. Students need to understand value of the word, the difference in denotative and connotative meanings, and how to write clear statements. Sentence diagramming teaches analysis of language.

An example of applying critical reading and understanding language’s structure as evidenced in today’s KC Star article, “Trump’s phone call to Putin raises hackles,” about the President congratulatory phone call to Putin included one biased word: stubborn. Look at the paragraph.

“Trumps comments came five days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and other “malicious cyber-attacks.’ It widened what has become a familiar gulf between the Trump administration’s tougher actions and words toward Russia and Trump’s own stubborn reluctance to criticize Putin.”

Let the facts speak without adding the opinion.

Of course, our school’s curriculum and the emphasis placed on education must be a priority for our society, too. Our students will be left behind if the curriculum does not teach the skills to be critical readers, analytical thinkers, and good communicators.

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Elected representatives: public servants, not career politicians

When the Constitution was written, serving as an elected representative in the Executive and the Legislative branches was deemed a public servant’s role.  Today the positions have become careers.  Politics should not be a career field, political science is a career field.

The United States was built on elected officials from within the community culture that elected them.  Sadly, elected officials now see their ‘jobs’ as careers not a public service.

Remember amendment 22 that limited the president’s term (published below).  Look at the year it was ratified–1951.  I find a need to reconsider term limits not just for the elected executives in our federal and state governments, but for the legislative branches.  Our elected public servants seem to ignore the intent of the constitution.

Political science is a career field.  The product is professional analysis.  Political scientists study the culture, the sociology, the numerical data, and the myriad of influences that affect government.  It includes the geography, the leadership, the social standards, and virtually any factor that affects the way a people manage their government–not just United States government.

If our government functioned as a public service rather than politicians who make a career of manipulating decisions along party lines rather than for the good of the COUNTRY, maybe work could actually be accomplished in a timely, positive manner.

Here are a couple of recommendations:

  1.  Term limits for all elected officials:  2 terms for Senators (12 years total); 4-5 terms for Representatives (8-10 years total)  This is for the federal legislative branch, but should be included for the state level.
  2. Salary and benefits need to be re-evaluated:  There is no question that a reasonable salary and benefit package is appropriate for the duration of the legislator’s tenure, but to continue a fully-funded benefit package (esp. health insurance) once the tenure is completed is not appropriate.  (Join the rest of the citizens in managing benefits when forced to change jobs.)

Once a legislator’s tenure is completed, that individual returns to the public sector.  Much like those who are in the military reserves or the National Guard, they could be re-assimilated into their last jobs.  There should be no penalty for stepping up to serve as an elected official.  Additionally, there should be no penalty should the ex-legislator benefit from the experience by writing books, serving as lecturers, or otherwise capitalize on the PUBLIC SERVICE they have provided.

Naturally this promotes a paradigm shift for the country, but in light of the current mood of the general public for the work of the government, it is time.  If we complain, we must find an better way.  These are two of my recommendations.

Amendment 22

(Ratified February 27, 1951)

Presidents Limited to Two Terms


  1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
  2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three- fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

[Accessed on February 10. 2018 at http://nccs.net/online-resources/us-constitution/amendments-to-the-us-constitution/amendments-11-27/amendment-22-presidents-limited-to-two-terms]

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