Why Every Student Should Read the Declaration

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This is adapted from a speech given to the Senate Education Committee in Frankfurt, KY.

I cannot even begin to tell you how strange it is that I am sitting here today. Three years ago I was a very content substitute teacher, church and school volunteer, wife to my high school sweetheart, and mother of four teenagers. Virtual school changed that. Instead of subbing, I was home watching my two youngest children’s high school classes online and my contentment faded.

As I talked to more parents around Kentucky, I realized that I was not alone. We were frustrated by what our students were and notably, not being taught. We followed proper protocol, communicating with the teachers and appealing to the school board. In the process, we were mocked, heckled, and slandered on social media. Fast forward to today, and the need for SB138. This bill is a way to ensure all children are educated, not indoctrinated by certain political and social beliefs, while also ensuring they are exposed to the rich content of the many amazing speeches, letters, and documents that tell the complicated story of America.

I have read and learned more about the founding and functioning of our country in recent years than ever before. The more I learn, the greater my appreciation is for those who came before me and how unique our experience is as Americans. That gratitude is the catalyst that prompts me to serve my community.

More Grace Christian Academy is one place where I have had the privilege to serve this year. When Pastor Blye asked me to teach the students civics, I was honored but a bit overwhelmed. How would I possibly teach them everything I knew about our country and government in the limited time we had together? Then I realized that I didn’t have to. That wasn’t the assignment. I was only asked to teach them how and why our government functions and the role they play in it as responsible citizens. In order to do that, I needed to teach them the reasons behind and the principles of our country and government in the first place. 

After researching various curricula, I ordered the best, most informative materials I could find: pocket Constitutions for everyone. What better way to learn about our founding than to read the actual documents written for that purpose. Primary sources are vital to gaining an unbiased understanding of historical events. We have a treasure trove of great ideas at our fingertips.

All of my students at More Grace have been in different public schools up until this year. They range in age from 10 to 17. When I told them that we were starting with the Declaration of Independence, only a couple of them knew what it was. None of them knew what it said. They do now. 

I explained that the Declaration is the foundation of our country and the Constitution is the blueprint for how our country is to function. It is important to know how and why our founding fathers declared independence in order to understand how and why they drafted the Constitution and designed our government the way they did. 

We read the entire document line by line together. I provided context but I was careful not to provide commentary. I will never forget their reaction when we read the words. They wanted to know what “endowed by their Creator” meant and I explained that our founders believed our rights came from our Creator, not men. That was a revelation to them and in my opinion a vital piece of information that they should have been taught previously. That was the first thing they told the Pastor they learned in my class. 

I wish you all could have been a fly on the wall as we read through the grievances against the king. The students could not believe how the colonists’ rights were infringed upon (now that they knew who gave them their rights) and they expressed their righteous indignation quite clearly. Turns out they don’t like tyranny very much. 

We also discussed the paradox that 56 imperfect men and thousands of others risked everything when drafting that document and fighting for freedom for eight years from England while the evil institution of enslaving human beings was alive and well in America. We have to have those hard conversations, not so we can place blame or instill guilt, but so we can get a full picture of our country’s history.

Again, I was careful to provide facts and context without providing commentary. I let the students discuss while I facilitated.

Beanie Geoghegan
Beanie Geoghegan is the Chapter Lead for No Left Turn in Education KY. She is a former teacher and reading interventionist and is the mother of four grown readers, writers, and independent thinkers.