They were talking about the tenth amendment.
The Tenth Amendment says:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
First print out the Tenth Amendment in really big letters, then cut apart the amendment into phrases or words, depending on the ages of your children. We cut it into phrases. Then have your kids glue the words onto a poster board in the right order, giving them prompts and hints as needed.
Next, discuss the meaning of the amendment with your kids. Basically the amendment means that the Constitution gives certain enumerated, or exactly spelled out, rights to the federal government and everything else is the province of the states or the people. It means, federal government, back off!
Finally have them draw pictures or write words on the poster that relate to the amendment.
We had talked about some of the issues surrounding the Tenth Amendment, including slavery, education, and gun rights. There are many other issues as well. You can’t teach about the Tenth Amendment without inserting your beliefs into who’s right and who’s wrong and why. You should teach your kids your own point of view on these things.
Here’s an example of the conversation I had with my kids about this amendment:
Me: In the south before the civil war they were shouting “States Rights! States Rights!” What were they wanting to have the right to do?
Kid: To have slaves.
Me: Yes, they considered slaves their property, and they thought the Constitution protected their right to own slaves. Did it?
Kid: No, the Constitution says that all people are free. You can’t take away their freedom.
Me: That’s right, no person’s right can infringe on another person’s right. But did you know that before the Civil War in the south blacks were not considered people? They were considered property only.
Kid: What? That’s crazy! Of course they’re people.
Me: Yeah, it is crazy. Can you think of any group today that is not considered people and is not allowed any rights?
Kids: (several wrong guesses then) Unborn babies.
Me: Yeah, many people say they’re not human, so they don’t have any rights. You can kill them whenever you like.
Kid: But everybody was a baby once. If you weren’t a human then, then you’re not a human now! (this from my seven year old)
That was the conversation we had, and you can tell obviously where my politics and belief system lies. That is an important part of education, teaching children to think and believe and behave in certain ways. You should approach a discussion of this type with the idea of teaching your beliefs and values to your kids. Also note that I drew a parallel between the past and the present. This is learning form the past in the most profound way.
We also discussed that people today are shouting “States Rights! States Rights!” again, but it’s not about slavery. It is about education, and health care, and whether we use CFL’s or incandescent bulbs, and what the federal government is allowed to tax and how, and education, and on and on. Teach these ideas from your own point of view in reference to what the Tenth Amendment and the Constitution say.
- For young kids use this activity to practice ordinal numbers. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.
- The tenth amendment is one of the most hotly debated issues today. Why do you think there’s such a struggle over the powers of government and where they belong? To the federal government? to the States? to the People?
- What powers does the Constitution say the Federal Government has, anyway?
- This amendment relates to other struggles in the history of our country too, like the “Jim Crow Laws” of the south. Learn more about those.
- Learn some of the basics of logic and debate, since it comes up so much in politics. The most important to understand are logical fallacies, incorrect attacks that look like good arguments, but aren’t. Sometimes they’re used in ignorance and sometimes intentionally. Watch TV or read a newspaper and try to spot some logical fallacies. They are very easy to find in both politics and advertising.