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Making Civics Real Workshop 4: Constitutional Convention  
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In this article, Cathy Travis, a long-term Congressional staff person for Congressman Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex.), presents a lesson on how to amend the U.S. Constitution and engages students in consideration of the pros and cons of potential new amendments. She focuses particularly on current topics and those of special interest to students, e.g., the voting age, smoking, campaign finance. The lesson is written in a manner that can be shared directly with students.

Student Exercise in Democracy
excerpted from Constitution Translated for Kids by Cathy Travis. Dayton, Ohio: Oakwood Publishing, 2001. Pages 69-72, 75-77.

If you had the chance to add to the United States Constitution now, or in the next few years, to improve or perfect our democracy, what would you want to add?

Since the Constitution is not finished, what are some other ideas for amendments to the Constitution? Debate them to understand why some things are just too hard to get agreement by two-thirds of any group.
Remember that the Constitution has only been amended 27 times in over 200 years, so an amendment should be extraordinarily necessary to make it part of the Constitution. Also remember that the Founders gave Congress the ability to make laws to deal with anything they saw fit, so just about any issue people want to add to the Constitution can be dealt with by passing a law.

In every debate about a new amendment, the most important question is: how vital is this that it must be added to the Constitution, or can Congress or local governments just make a law or a rule to deal with this issue?
Assume your group has succeeded in convening a constitutional convention. Below are suggestions for amendments, along with a suggestion or two to consider as arguments for and against the various amendments. Don't limit anyone's imagination by only using these suggestions or by sticking strictly to the way it is written.

If you can get two-thirds of any group to support any of these amendments, remember the actual process of adopting an amendment to the United States Constitution would also require that the amendment be adopted by two-thirds of the United States Congress and three-fourths of the states as well. 1

Incidentally, many of these amendments are actually proposed by someone in Congress or the states to amend the Constitution.


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