When did you last read the Constitution? Can you sing the preamble? Historian Michael Kammen once argued that our government’s founding document is "swathed in pride yet obscured by indifference”: Americans revere the Constitution but know little about it. What do tourists say when they visit Independence Hall? How do preservationists treat the parchment on which it’s written? How have Bush v. Gore, the Clinton impeachment, and the gun control debate changed how we interpret the Constitution? Common-place’s new special issue on the United States Constitution (www.common-place.org), tackles these questions and more in a roundtable on the uses and abuses of the Constitution, including essays by such eminent scholars of the document as Jack Rakove, Rogers Smith, and Linda Kerber, as well as leading journalists James Banner and Joshua Micah Marshall and others. Meanwhile, in “Tales from the Vault,” National Archives curators Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Kitty Nicholson pore over the parchment; the issue’s “Common School” column narrates one high school teacher’s experience in the “We the People” competition; and our Reviews consider everything from Charles Beard’s classic Economic History of the Constitution to CliffNotes’ study guides to a document few Americans have ever bothered to read. A common place, an uncommon voice.
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