tv [untitled] June 30, 2012 1:30pm-2:00pm EDT
would definitely have kids work in teams. i like that a locality. i love role plays, and one advantage -- see, the earlier we can -- you have to develop a taste for these things. the earlier you can introduce people. there are many acquired tastes, and there are a bunch of things that aren't fun at the beginning but are fun after a little bit. my kids are now, after three years, beginning to actually pli piano as in playing, as in actually having fun, and the first 2 1/2 years weren't so fun, and now it's fun. i do think that one feature, one advantage of the presidency is it's very personal. it remains our most personal office, and so it's a really good way of getting people interested in contemporary politics to learn about past politics and organized around
these very colorful personalities. so when i'm a kid, you know, these little podded pogs 178 page, little histories, actually kind of get me interested. so i agree. you have to get people interested, and there's probably a different way maybe of doing it for science than in math and maybe a different thing for music. but i like teams. i like role plays, and i definitely like the presidency in particular, because it's very personal. >> kyle. >> well, if i can just reflect on some of the experiences we've had here at ou in the last few years where we've founded a constitution program, and i've enjoyed i think some initial successes. so, yes, i'm bragging a little bit. it's -- we haven't let a fear of politics impede us. the constitution is always politicized. it's one of our principles that the constitution is always bigger than politics. the program has always been that the constitution isn't
conservative or liberal, but it's the framework within which we decide our political fate. and so we've worked hard to create authentic political representation for conservatives and liberals within our program, and i think it's been an element of our success. reflecting on that, there are one of two explanations. one is that possibly we start to see an age where this is becoming an exciting topic again for academics and we're past some of the academic culture wars, or we have david here and everybody respects him and it's easy. maybe a little bit of both. >> all right. i do want to invite those of you who would like to pose your own question to move to the microphone here on my left, right up front at any point. if i see someone there, i'll call on you. the phones are open. [ laughter ] you know, this morning peter
spoke of needing a renewal every 19 years or so, every generation of the constitution. the idea was that our so-called founding fathers spoke out then, but what about now? have we reached a point in our history, akhil amar, where you believe we need to gather ideas for taking a look at the mistakes and some of the wrongdoing that the constitution -- what happened?
oh, i'm so sorry. is he all right? are you all right? okay. coming to the microphone. all right. please, be careful of those stairs. [ applause ] have we reached that point, akhil? >> two or three -- i like to get people expressing opinions. this is especially true in a law school. so my version of david's assignment, these teams might be who's the most overrated president? who's the most underrated? something where they have to take a position. what were the biggest mistakes in the past? what do you think the five biggest challenges of the future are going to be? something -- and, again, we could have teams, and you could
even sort of compete to win a prize for your team, for the most interesting answer to that. but i do think just finally on the challenges of our world they are global challenges created by the internet and climate change and international terrorism. so some of the answers that we inherited don't make sense because those answers presuppose old world over there, new world here. we'll just sort of keep them at bay and do our own thing, and that's not their future. so to get them to -- you know, what are the five things that are going to be the biggest challenges of the next 20 years? that would be a fun team assignment. and the answer's going to have to be political. >> who else wants to respond? rosemarie. >> i think it would be interesting to ask you all, to ask students, to ask any
audience if they wanted to take advantage of the clause in the constitution that would allow us to call another constitutional convention. in our history it's never been done. we had one constitutional convention, but the constitution does provide procedures by which we, the people, can reconstitute ourselves as a convention of the people and have a whole new document. and, frankly, i think if people would take that exercise seriously and start thinking about what a whole new constitution would look like written out of whole cloth, i think they would, one, have a greater appreciation of the founders, and, two, i think they would appreciate the challenges of governing today in a more full way. >> david mccullough. >> i really truly believe it all comes back to or down to or up to leadership.
and leadership at all levels but particularly political leadership. here we are in one of the great universities of our country, a state university in which the president teaches a course on civics. [ applause ] match an president who's responsible for the enormous budget, for 44,000 people, if you count the employees and the students, with all that he has to contend with, takes time out to teach that course every year? i don't know of another president of a major university who teaches a course. maybe there are some, but the point is, we lead by example. and our politicians have to do
the same thing. and so do the people in the media. we must not -- [ applause ] i think it's appalling that we have people on television regularly, every day, reporting the nation's events and the world's events too, one, can't really properly use the english language -- [ laughter ] [ applause ] -- and who, too, don't seem to ever read books. [ applause ] it is not coincidental, in my view, that the strongest, most admirable presidents we've had have all been students of history. many of them have been the authors of history. when george marshall was first
appointed secretary of the state by harry truman, he was asked in a press conference, did you have a good education at vmi, virginia military institute? he said, no, i didn't. they said, why not, sir? he said, because they taught no history. a leader has to know history. so we've got to have leaders in the media, leaders in the press, leaders in institutions, such as this, who take this cause to heart and do something about it. there's nothing wrong with the younger generation. the younger generation is terrific. any problems that they have, any failings they have in what they know and don't know and how they use the english language is not their faults. it's our faults. and we've got to hold the media responsible. and this turning of our political life and our -- and the future
of the world into a sports event where it's all about who is ahead and what the polls are, and the questions they ask at these so-called debates, inane! it's like they're playing down to the lowest common denominator. we've got to demand more of them. [ applause ] >> all right. we have two people at the microphone. in fact, we have three. please, go ahead with your questions. >> first, mr. mccullagh, i would like to thank you. i'm a public school elementary teacher in the state of oklahoma. so i would like to thank you for your kind words about what go in the classroom. i would like to pick your minds
of this esteemed panel, i teach in this state american history in the fifth grade. however, my class, my test does not count that we are not reading or mathematics. however, i fully believe that i am the one that is helping to prepare my students to be citizens and to eventually take care of me. so what are your -- what are your thoughts on what i should do as a professional and what i should do to help make the constitution count in oklahoma? >> peter jt? >> me? this is, how to make the constitution -- compelling for your students? >> no. that i can do. >> oh, okay. all right. i -- good.
>> how do i encourage the powers to be in the state of oklahoma that american history in the elementary level should be counted? or -- does that clarify my question? because it's directly off the top of my head. i'm sorry. >> yeah. so how can we persuade the powers that be that what you're doing has civic significance and therefore should count? >> yes. >> yeah. well, are there any legislators in the house right now? that's a wonderful -- david is champing at the bit to answer. >> can i make one suggestion to your question and also a kind of follow-up to david's point about the media. could we generate some media of our own? could, for example, in the state of oklahoma this institution find a way to recognize and
to broadcast the successes that are happening in the classroom? to reward the teachers and the students by that kind of attention, partly to educate our other leaders? also to -- up to encourage a sense of the possibilities of things that really are working in the classroom. >> well if i understand your question correctly, one of the problems is that -- and this is everywhere -- that because of the emphasis on reading and math they have pretty much not just pushed history to the back burner, they put it off the stove. >> yes. [ applause ] >> i think there's a very good solution to that, and that is, fine. stress math. fine, stress reading. could we, please when we think about reading something worthwhile, read the literature of history. >> certainly. >> read lincoln's second inaugural address.
read the letters from a birmingham jail. read the great passages from the classic history that's been written about the country, whether it's something that was written last month or something that was written 100 years ago. and let them discover not just the poll of history, but, again, how these people and those moments can come back to life if they convey with a powerful use of our language. and the -- i couldn't agree more about it has to be done early. if you want to get a child interested in the founding fathers, have them read a book called "ben and me" by robert frost. >> we do. >> do you know him? it's about a mouse who lived in ben franklin's attic. >> good. good.
>> i encountered him when i was 6, and he said that all of ben's great ideas were wonderful, but they weren't ben's, they were his, amos'. >> right. right. >> it's very well researched and it's superbly written. i have used it with my own children, with my own grandchildren. it always works. >> all right. >> these things work generation after generation. always get them to read above their level, and never ask them to read truck, junk, boring, tedious history. and forget about memorizing dates. that's what books are for. you can look them up. >> all right. [ applause ] thank you. thank you. >> i do have something i'd like to say in response to this, and that is some of my most satisfying teaching is with teachers in, teach american history programs and gilder lerman program, and the bad news
that all of these programs, is out, and gilder lerman is in trouble. something like the american constitution center, and this is all because we're too heavily taxed. it's about what it comes down to, folks. i don't mean to be offensive and i know it's oklahoma. if you want to invest in the future, that's what it means. this doesn't come for nothing. [ applause ] >> howdy, guys. thank you very much for coming to our great university. thank you very much, diane, for moderating the discussion so beautifully. my question deals with the world. our constitution is our document, but people in every country in the world look at it and look to it. what are the differences in the challenges, the importance, the opportunities of teaching the constitution at peking university or university of cairo or in seoul, south korea,
versus teaching it here in our country? is it important to do so? if you have experience doing so, what are the challenges and what were the surprises that you had? >> i'll take a shot at your question. it's a very interesting question. there's been a recent article suggesting that the american constitution has lost some of its influence abroad. there's no doubt in the basic structure of our government, that is a separation of powers versus the parliamentary system, the british system, that our system has not been copied as much as the british system. but it is extraordinary to look around and see how much our constitution has influenced the world. first of all, the whole idea of a constitution. when you think about a constitution now, it's a written document. if iraq is going to have a constitution, if afghanistan is going to have a constitution, it's going to be a written document. that was our influence. if -- one thing we haven't mentioned, which has been very influential, is the idea of an independent judiciary.
other states, including great britain. you know, britain just created a supreme court. they finally lifted a few of the house of -- members of the house of lords out of the house of lords and said, "you're going to be our supreme court." and that's just been in the last two years. so -- and a bill of rights? other states in europe have adopted bills of rights. independent judiciary, ratification, the whole idea of referendums. these are all things that came out of american experience. so even though our separation of powers, that is to say, we do not allow members of the ministry, the cabinet, to simultaneously hold office in the legislature, which is exactly what the british mandate -- that system of separation of powers has not been copied. in all other respects, we've been very, very influential around the world.
>> gordon, i'm very glad to hear you say that, because i said something in a very similar -- in a blog post on the national constitution center website in response to a very interesting article in the "new york times" by adam liptak in which he suggested that the rest of the world was really not following the american model, and i said, really, the headline is, the rest of the world is becoming democratic, and american, and with a bill of rights and judicial review, and -- then the other things are smaller issues of institutional detail, and the presidentialist model of a separate executive has worked particularly poorly in south america. in south america. it's led to a sense of gridlock, the legislature is controlled by one group. the presidency by a different party. there's a perception that things don't get done, presidents get
frustrated and so then they just try to start to govern by executive decree, unilateralism. this led to coups. you see some possible executive or order. there is an interesting question, and it's not just twu of the u.s. constitution. it's true of 50 state constitutions. governors are elected independently of state legislatures where the legislature might be controlled by a different party than the governor. it's an interesting question, whether it's the better model. it is the american model. >> another dimension of american constitution constitutionalism which seems relevant and that is federalism. we have a deeply conflicted feelings about our own federal history. but the fact is that europe
is on the verge of failure, the euro zone is going to fall apart, which could have global implications of a disastrous order. and, that what they can't do is what's built into our system, a system of burden sharing, and -- and, transfer of payments, i mean we could handle things that the world will need to handle on an increasingly large scale. >> but isn't there another issue there? i heard governor jerry brown of california say the other day that if the legislature won't agree to something, it goes to the people. and the people can create a referendum and decide that way. it is truly taking the government or the governing of that state to the people. how does that fit in to the
larger picture? >> i think this kind direct democracy is probably a little dangerous. and our representative system has worked very well. but there are increasing uses of this kind of -- of -- well, came out of the progressive area, which itself was a period in which, which politics seemed to be dead, and i think -- it's very similar to our own time that the gross inequalities of wealth were enormous. and i think the larger reforms were passed that led to ballot initiatives and referendums. i think we don't really want to go down that path. i know colorado is really suffering from this. they're all over the place. they're having referendums to repeal previous referendums. and it become is a very
dangerous situation. you know there its the possibility, technically, within a half century or maybe shorter, where we as the a people, directly, could vote on the budget. you could say, every april 15th, the people will have internet connection and will decide yes or no on the budget. this kind of direct democracy is possible. whether it's the best way to run a democracy with 300-plus million is, i think, problematic. >> i think we have time for one last question, sir. >> hello, everybody. >> hello. >> sorry for the interruption, distraction on the fall. i was a teenager when the franklin roosevelt's new deal got started. and right early on, a bunch of
-- new, new deal legislation. >> please stay close. >> -- got slammed down by the supreme court. and franklin roosevelt -- roosevelt's solution was to pack the court. let's get some more people on the court. and then we'll get the majority in favor of the new deal. and another challenge is the warren court and more recently -- the united citizens where corporations, no limits on campaign contributions. so that the super pacs now, sometimes, outpace the regular campaign money.
and my point is that if i were teach ing the constitution i would think it very important historically to come against and explain and discuss those points where the constitution was really challenged. and part of that would be the drama to getting a new amendment. and -- so i just think, i think the students who had got excited about the challenges. >> all right. all right. thank you. >> so i liked rosie's suggestion that we could -- rosemary's suggestion that we could ask students what they think abut a constitutional convention.
i have gone around the, you know, to classrooms, as young as first graders. and one question i've asked them is, a jefferson-like question, what amendment, what do you think should be in the constitution that isn't or is -- forget even a constitutional convention across the board. and i've got tell you that i learned some amazing things from first graders. i remember once i went and i said what would you put in the constitution? and one first grader said, no drugs. >> no what? >> no drugs. so i thought about that. i said, that is avery good idea. drugs are very bad. your life is going to be a lot better. and then i thought, we did have this with prohibition and it didn't work so well. honestly that was the first time in my life i began to think
maybe it's possible this war on drugs, you know, won't end so well. i'm not taking a strong position on that. i'm saying asking kids, young people, something like, what should -- what -- a lot of them said air ra e.r.a. we talked about that. and these are first graders and third graders and fifth graders. >> any other comments? >> i would look to add something off this topic about resources for studying the constitution. some of you may know about the documentary history of the ratification of the constitution. which is a wonderful documentary project being done in, at madison, wisconsin. and the documentary edition is now available online with other papers of the founders. so that those -- we have had
these wonderful editorial editions that nobody has ever looked aat, they're now available and they're getting wonderful use. and, for advanced high school and college students, you can now look at the ratification debates. you can do word searches. you can read them. and they're not just available at university libraries. they're available now, the stripped down edition thanks to a mellon grand is available universally. and the documentary with all the documentary materials, you can get it through libraries, such as ou's library, that has rights to do so. but a wonderful and democratic move in terms of information, availabilty and accessabilty. it's going to be very empowering for a future generation of students and i hope for a future generation of legislators reflection on our history. >> can type just add to that. because this documentary collection, which is now 25 volumes of debates over democracy in all the issues, of,
liberty, representation, federalism all of these issues debated. it is the greatest collection of debates on these issues of democracy in the history of the world. now it may be that fifth century greeks had a richer debate. but we don't know about it. maybe 17th century england had a really rich debate. we only know a fragment of what went on. here we have 25 volumes of people, ordinary people in these ratification conventions debating these fundamental issues of how much government should we have, how much liberty, how much freedom, how much representation. what does representation mean? all of these basic issues. it is all now, as the peter says available online. an extraordinary collection. i must say, much neglected by political theorists and historians. >> well, thank all of you so much.