Why do Americans celebrate "Constitution Day"? Why does the federal government, indeed, require universities receiving federal funds to provide an educational program on the Constitution each September 17? Why September 17th? The lecture will explore the relatively recent reconceptualization of our constitutional history, and especially the linkage that some Americans (mostly but not entirely political conservatives) have forged between their version of constitutional history and what they term "traditional American history." What is traditional American history? Why should the federal government specially fund this version of our national past? Just as it may be that the Constitution is too important to be left to politicians, it may be that the teaching of history is too important to be left to politicians. What would a more plausible version of American constitutional patriotism be?
Stanley N. Katz is Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is also President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies, the leading organization in humanistic scholarship and education in the United States. His recent research focuses upon the relationship of civil society and constitutionalism to democracy, and upon the relationship of the United States to the international human rights regime. For more on Stan Katz, see his LAPA people page and the web page dedicated to the conference held in his honor last February.