Mommy explains Constitutional law
Today I was thrust into a discussion that required me to explain our Constitution. Like many great conversations, this one took place in the car. We had picked up our dog from his vacation stay at the kennel and were driving home, when we got on the topic of groups of kids not wanting to play with each other. Neither she or I remembers exactly how we got started on this, but we ended up talking about the fact that white children and black children used to be segregated in different schools. I pointed out that things had been this way here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and if we had lived here 60 years ago we would have had to work toward making the system more fair.
She asked: "Would you have given money to the black schools to make them better?"
I replied that I would have put my money and effort into getting the system changed.
I told her that after a lot of work from brave people, the law was finally changed to require children to attend school together.
She asked, "Did people vote to change it?" This was an amazing question because it required me to explain that no, if they had had a vote, most people probably would have voted to keep schools separate. But the way our government is set up, we have a Constitution whose principles are even more powerful than a vote. When the Supreme Court decided that the law keeping children in segregated schools was unconstitutional, the law had to be changed, no matter how people voted.
It's easy to be cyncical about our government today, but explaining the system to my child, I was pretty darn proud of our core principles. I think we have a wonderful government structure, if we will just insist that the separation of powers be honored and the Constitution be strictly and vigorously upheld.
Age 7 has its challenges but it is also magical and inspiring to be able to engage in real dialogue with my daughter. The questions she asks really get me thinking and our conversations are learning opportunities for both of us. I grew up in the North, where segregation is more book history than local history, and the fight for civil rights always seemed distant, like a grainy black-and-white documentary newsreel. The fact of segregation hit me in a new way, explaining to my girl that there had been separate schools right here in the only home town she has ever known.
I'd be interested in your thoughts on what was the most challenging question your child has ever asked you, and how old was your child when he or she posed it?