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Bruce Springsteen and Constitution Day

Constitution Day is just around the corner and the struggle is real.  It’s the law.  Each educational institution receiving federal aid must provide some type of educational programming on September 17th.  If the 17th falls on a Saturday, the program must be on Friday, and if it’s on Sunday, the program on Monday.  I’m not complaining, well maybe a little.  The constitution is important, and it is something we should cover. But after a decade, new ideas are hard to come by. We’ve “signed the Constitution,” hosted speakers, had quiz bowls, club contests and more.  Yet sometimes students need to take action and express themselves.   


A quick internet search yields the National Constitution Center providing educators with a printable Constitution that can be assembled, a tee shirt iron on transfer and worksheets.  The National Archives provides documents to teach from and another printable constitution.  Great for middle school and maybe high school but for colleges they are lame.  Enter Bruce Springsteen, who worked with the National Constitution Center to create “From Ashbury Park to the Promised Land:  The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.”   This lesson plan kit provides real world scenarios about music and the law.  These issues are important to our students and something they are passionate about.    




Last year, as we explored the scenarios, we realized we had something that would spark passion.   We want our students engaged, so we combined the real-world music industry scenarios with free speech blocks.  Large empty boxes wrapped in black chalkboard paper were stacked in our activity center with scenarios like the ones below taped to them.  Buckets of chalk sat around the boxes, hopefully enticing students to comment.




The plan was simple, set the boxes out, leave it alone and let students create a free speech zone.  They could move the blocks around, write and draw on them and exercise their rights. It was a risk. The administration worried about what students would write, even though it could be erased or removed.  Faculty worried that students would not be interested in the topic.  Student Activities worried that no one would participate.  But after almost a decade of the usual, we tried something new and it worked!  Students slowly trickled in, quietly asking if they could really write on the boxes. 


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Slowly more students gathered…




And while they debated the musical issues, the also left positive messages.


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And the blocks were so popular, they stayed up for over a week.  Students continued to add messages until there was no room left.  So, if you are struggling this year with Constitution Day, give Bruce Springsteen a try and let students surprise you with their perspective.  


And for those of us struggling this year, help us out and join the conversation:

1.  How are you celebrating Constitution Day?

2.  What is your institution doing to promote attendance?

3.  How do you engage your students?