(CNN) Constitution "translated"


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Mark Tyson
July 15, 2003, 09:03 PM
CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2003/EDUCATION/07/15/constitution.for.kids.ap/index.html

Congressional staffer translates Constitution for kids

Tuesday, July 15, 2003 Posted: 1:16 PM EDT (1716 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For students stumped by "ex post facto" and put off by "thereofs" and "hereins," a congressional staffer has translated the Constitution into modern, plain language.

Cathy Travis, who has worked on Capitol Hill for two decades, took on the delicate task of rephrasing the hallowed document, whose meaning still is debated and reinterpreted by Congress and the courts.

The Constitution's wording is mostly the handiwork of a colonial New York aristocrat who tried to avoid legalisms and set down in simple terms the will of the Constitutional Convention. The simplicity of 1787 can be hard going today.

Article 1, Section 9: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

Travis' translation: "Congress cannot pass a law to declare someone guilty of a crime. Criminal laws passed by Congress can be applied only from the time they are passed."

Gouverneur Morris, who did most of the drafting, had argued in the Constitutional Convention for a president who would serve for life, would appoint senators for life and was elected only by men who owned land for life. He bowed to the will of the majority, however, and compressed the 23 articles assembled by the "Committee on Detail" into the seven articles of the Constitution

He wrote the "We the People" preamble, and he sharply edited much of the rest.

"The biggest misconception about the Constitution is that it's very long -- it's an itty-bitty thing, only 4,400 words," said Travis, press secretary to Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas.

Her 85-page "Constitution Translated for Kids" includes a glossary and some history and puts the translation and original side by side.

For example, the First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Travis translates that as "Congress cannot make any law to create a government church, to keep people from practicing any religion they please (or not)."

Travis is preparing an edition of her translation for adults, who may be a bit puzzled, too.

They may not know, for example, that "establishment of religion" refers to Britain's still-existing "established church," with king or queen at its head, clergy paid by the government and 24 bishops sitting as members of the House of Lords. The amendment was written to make it plain that the new republic wanted nothing like that.

Ira C. Lupu, professor of law at George Washington University, said the translation should be useful for schools but doesn't tell the whole story.

"Something is always lost in translation," he said.

The setting up of a state church is only part of the question, he pointed out, noting disputes that are still unsettled about prayer in public schools and the use of public money for schools run by churches. Courts have yet to decide to what extent some of the recent "faith-based initiatives" from the Bush White House may or may not conform to the "establishment clause."

Lupu also questioned the translation's version of the much-disputed Second Amendment, which includes the phrase "citizens have the right to own firearms."

"A lot of people believe the amendment was intended only to protect the rights of states to maintain militias and not to guarantee a right to ordinary citizens," he said.

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Boats
July 15, 2003, 09:09 PM
Lupu also questioned the translation's version of the much-disputed Second Amendment, which includes the phrase "citizens have the right to own firearms."

"A lot of people believe the amendment was intended only to protect the rights of states to maintain militias and not to guarantee a right to ordinary citizens," he said.



A lot of people believe in Santa Claus, they usually outgrow the belief when confronted with the facts. Somehow this transition doesn't happen with liberals and the 2A.

Maybe we should start lobbying for a cure to this puzzling arrested development?

Geech
July 15, 2003, 09:23 PM
The first amendment contains the phrase "the right of the people." The second amendment contains the phrase "the right of the people." The fourth amendment contains the phrase "the right of the people." Somehow, when the second amendment contains that phrase, it means something different than the other two. I'll never understand "anti" logic.

OF
July 15, 2003, 09:57 PM
The article makes it sound as if the 'translated' kiddie version explains that according to the 2nd Amendment "citizens have the right to own firearms."

The blissninny quoted right after that is complaining about the translation. This is a good thing.

- Gabe

BowStreetRunner
July 15, 2003, 09:59 PM
if it were logical the anti's wouldnt be saying it now would they?!

Standing Wolf
July 15, 2003, 11:26 PM
I'll never understand "anti" logic.

That's because it's anti-logic, not logic.

WAGCEVP
July 15, 2003, 11:53 PM
Constitution Translated For Children

This text for kids SUPPORTS the reading of the Second
Amendment to uphold that '`citizens have the right to own firearms.''

This is, of course, in direct conflict with the gun control perspective
and they are wasting no time in attacking the position of the book.
Constitution Translated for Children

By CARL HARTMAN
.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - For students stumped by ``ex post facto'' and put off by ``thereofs'' and ``hereins,'' a congressional staffer has translated the Constitution into modern, plain language.

Cathy Travis, who has worked on Capitol Hill for two decades, took on the delicate task of rephrasing the hallowed document, whose meaning still is debated and reinterpreted by Congress and the courts.

The Constitution's wording is mostly the handiwork of a colonial New York aristocrat who tried to avoid legalisms and set down in simple terms the will of the Constitutional Convention. The simplicity of 1787 can be hard going today.

Article 1, Section 9: ``No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.''

Travis' translation: ``Congress cannot pass a law to declare someone guilty of a crime. Criminal laws passed by Congress can be applied only from the time they are passed.''

Gouverneur Morris, who did most of the drafting, had argued in the Constitutional Convention for a president who would serve for life, would appoint senators for life and was elected only by men who owned land for life. He bowed to the will of the majority, however, and compressed the 23 articles assembled by the ``Committee on Detail'' into the seven articles of the Constitution

He wrote the ``We the People'' preamble, and he sharply edited much of the rest.

``The biggest misconception about the Constitution is that it's very long - it's an itty-bitty thing, only 4,400 words,'' said Travis, press secretary to Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas.

Her 85-page ``Constitution Translated for Kids'' includes a glossary and some history and puts the translation and original side by side.

For example, the First Amendment says, ``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.''

Travis translates that as ``Congress cannot make any law to create a government church, to keep people from practicing any religion they please (or not).''

Travis is preparing an edition of her translation for adults, who may be a bit puzzled, too.

They may not know, for example, that ``establishment of religion'' refers to Britain's still-existing ``established church,'' with king or queen at its head, clergy paid by the government and 24 bishops sitting as members of the House of Lords. The amendment was written to make it plain that the new republic wanted nothing like that.

Ira C. Lupu, professor of law at George Washington University, said the translation should be useful for schools but doesn't tell the whole story.

``Something is always lost in translation,'' he said.

The setting up of a state church is only part of the question, he pointed out, noting disputes that are still unsettled about prayer in public schools and the use of public money for schools run by churches. Courts have yet to decide to what extent some of the recent ``faith-based initiatives'' from the Bush White House may or may not conform to the ``establishment clause.''

Lupu also questioned the translation's version of the much-disputed Second Amendment, which includes the phrase ``citizens have the right to own firearms.''

``A lot of people believe the amendment was intended only to protect the rights of states to maintain militias and not to guarantee a right to ordinary citizens,'' he said.

On the Net:

``Constitution Translated for Kids'': http://www.oakwoodpublishing.com/Pages/Publishing/Books/cathy.htm

Justin
July 15, 2003, 11:57 PM
Interesting stuff.

Duplicate threads merged.

AZRickD
July 16, 2003, 12:25 AM
http://www.oakwoodpublishing.com/Pages/Publishing/Authors/Cathytravis/Bio.htm

Above is the link to the author's bio. Born in Jonesboro and attended college in Arkansas, she has spent lots of time working for Demo congresscritters such as Congressman Bill Alexander (D-Arkansas), Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas).

Pretty brave for her to adopt the Standard Model on 2A with the circles she must find herself in now that she live in D.C.

Rick

Combat-wombat
July 16, 2003, 04:39 AM
Okay. Basically what stupid liberals are telling me is that all of the BOR applies to the people, except the 2nd Amendment. The founding fathers put it in there just to confuse people.

Not too logical, eh?

tyme
July 16, 2003, 07:46 AM
Why would someone feel compelled to translate the Constitution? Much more valuable would be to leave it intact and provide a copious amount of notes. But there are already versions like that, and Ms. Travis has to make money somehow...

CatsDieNow
July 16, 2003, 08:43 AM
"The biggest misconception about the Constitution is that it's very long -- it's an itty-bitty thing, only 4,400 words," said Travis, press secretary to Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas.
It should be shorter since she's taking out the five-dollar words...and yet she's charging $14.95.

2dogs
July 16, 2003, 10:34 AM
Why would someone feel compelled to translate the Constitution

My guess is because we are producing a generation of idiots who believe it when they are told that they are unable to interpret the Constitution on their own, and therefore need a super idiot to translate it for them.:uhoh:

MrAcheson
July 16, 2003, 10:42 AM
Its done for the benefit of people who don't know that language like "separation of church and state" isn't in the constitution and language like "God helps those who help themselves" isn't in the Bible.

BrokenPaw
July 16, 2003, 11:29 AM
My guess is because we are producing a generation of idiots who believe it when they are told that they are unable to interpret the Constitution on their own, and therefore need a super idiot to translate it for them.I don't believe that there's intrinsically wrong with creating a linguistically-simpler version of a document, so that kids can grasp what its meaning is more readily. As long as the translator makes accuracy a primary goal, rather than allowing political bias of any kind to enter into the translation.

Children do not have as wide a vocabulary as they will as adults. The contructs used in the Constitution are archaic, and are in some cases not ones with which today's children are familiar. Does this mean that the children are hopeless, insufferably-doltish lackwits? No, it means that language and its use evolve over time, and kids learn first how the language is used in their time, before (possibly) taking the time to learn how it was used historically.

In addition to the difference of language over time, there's the matter of complexity. A child first learns basics, and then, later, learns the reasons behind those basics, and expands upon them, and gains more refined knowledge.

Case in point: The other day I was explaining "bullet drop" to my 11-year-old daughter, because she asked why a scope that's dialed in for 200 yards was not also dialed in for 300, and so forth. We discussed parallax, and the ballistic trajectory of the bullet as it travels downrange[0]. I'm fully conversant with the calculus that explains why the curve of the bullet is shaped the way it is. But in explaining the concept to the girl, it wasn't necessary for her to understand the exact equations by which you can calculate the position of an object under constant acceleration. She's going into the 6th grade, and she's advanced in math, but she's not yet ready for calculus; algebra is about where she is right now.

I explained the concept to her in terms she understood. Just as someone who translates the Constitution might give it to kids in terms they understand.

Do I believe that the kids should never be exposed to the real, actual Constitution, as written? Not at all. But I believe that it's unreasonably harsh to judge all kids as "idiots" because they have not yet reached an adult level of learning.

-BP

[0] I was leaving out the aerodynamic effects, for simplicity; no Physics experts need harangue me -- I know I was leaving stuff out. That's the point. She's 11.

2dogs
July 16, 2003, 11:44 AM
creating a linguistically-simpler version of a document, so that kids can grasp what its meaning is

Like we have to create ever-simpler versions of history and language with idiotic "PC" revisionism?

No offense BP but how did we all get by interpreting the Constitution since it was written without a dumbed down version? It seems to me that most people who cared to were able to pretty well understand what their rights were and what the constitution meant until "the learned" had to come along to tell them that, no, they really didn't understand that the Constitution guarantees the right to abortion, or sodomy, or that the Bill of Rights" guarantees the right of National Guardsmen everywhere to own a "friendly" looking gun.:rolleyes:





Edit- my own idiot spelling

CatsDieNow
July 16, 2003, 12:07 PM
2dogs:

Seems to me that this is similar to making picture-book versions of bibles for kids. Stupid adults are an entirely different issue. I read it once and it was often difficult to wade through the obscure words and sentence structure.

Of course, if I was a parent (and in above example - religious) I still have the power to approve anything I gave them that I deemed to be of great importance.

BrokenPaw
July 16, 2003, 12:28 PM
Like we have to create ever-simpler versions of history and language with idiotic "PC" revisionism? 2dogs,
No. Like we explain complex things to our kids in terms they understand, and then, later, when they can understand more complex terms, we help them to do that.

If your 6-year-old kid falls out of a tree and hurts himself, is he a stupid idiot for not understanding that he hit the ground with velocity V after accelerating for time T at 9.8 m/s^2, and that he had a kinetic energy of 1/2M/V^2, which was dispersed in a much faster counter-acceleration due to a normal force applied by the earth? If he breaks his leg, should he automatically understand that the normal force applied by the planet exceeded the impulse-force absorption threshold of his bones, which, after all, are only a relatively-weak lattice of calcium salts, and are therefore somewhat fragile?

No. He learns that "falling hurts", and "falling from higher places hurts more than falling from low places", and "if you fall from high enough, you break something".

The details come later.

I'm not advocating the dumb-down of everything, so that kids can read it, and dismiss it, and go back to Playstation. I'm suggesting that putting things into simpler terms allows the concepts to be grasped by younger children, which means they can begin thinking about those things that much sooner.

If you gave a second-grader the text (US Constitution, Article I, Section 2, clause 2): No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.he would be caught up in the vocabulary that's beyond him ('attained', 'Inhabitant'), and in the archaic linguistic constructs ("...who shall not have attained to the Age of..."). He would gain nothing from this. In fact, because the use of "and" clauses has drifted a bit over time, he might interpret the language as saying "no one who is not 25 and is not a resident of the state", which (following strict boolean logic) allows for under-25 residents, and for over-25 non-residents, to be representatives. But if you rewrote it thus:No one can be a Representative until he or she is 25 years old. That person also has to have been a citizen for at least seven years. And that person has to live in the state he or she represents. Even a second-grader can grasp this.

I defy you to explain how it is that I have done any "PC revisionism" here; all I have done is revised the vocabulary and structure, while maintaining the actual meaning. I have put it in terms more useful to a younger child.

Can you explain to me how this is intrinsically wrong? It's what teachers are supposed to do all day; they explain a concept in terms simple enough for students to understand, so that, after the explanation, the students know more than they did before.

No offense BP but how did we all get by interpreting the Constitution since it was written without a dumbed down version?Perhaps I was one of those "idiotic youths", but when I was in the second grade, we had to read parts of the Constitution in its original text. Do you know what I got out of it? Nothing. The language was beyond me. And I was a precocious child, with language skills well above average for my age group.

Following your line of logic: why don't we just tell kids about the Four Rules, once, and then give them all guns to play with? After all, they should be paying attention enough to grasp the rules, and we shouldn't dumb things down to anything as banal as "don't touch" until they're older.

-BP

tyme
July 16, 2003, 12:44 PM
There's a difference between important information like safety rules and academic material like the Constitution. Reading the Constitution isn't a necessity if you don't have the requisite language skills, though obtaining those language skills might be depending on how old you are. Is it really useful to try to teach the Constitution to lower schoolers? I'd fault the school for trying to teach it to you (in its original form), not the free market for failing to provide a translated-for-kids version.

I just don't see a market for the book. I guess the publisher does.

2dogs
July 16, 2003, 12:52 PM
Perhaps I was one of those "idiotic youths", but when I was in the second grade, we had to read parts of the Constitution in its original text. Do you know what I got out of it? Nothing

Again, my guess only, but I'd say you are dead wrong- I'd bet you have a fairly solid working knowledge of the Constitution (and a few other things like physics?) and all regardless of your lack of understanding in the 2nd grade- they didn't dumb it down and that did not forever impair your learning ability- just maybe it enhanced it by piquing your curiosity?:)

BrokenPaw
July 16, 2003, 01:08 PM
2dogs,

My point was that I gained nothing out of it then. I like to think that I've progressed beyond what I learned in the second grade. (Particularly all of that stuff about girls having cooties).

Tyme,

“Let me control the textbooks and I will control the country.” Adolf Hitler said that[0]. And he was right. The reason for teaching things like the Constitution to young children is that, if you teach them what the country was founded on, early, then they're less likely to be converted by socialistic dogma when they encounter it.

When I was in the 8th grade, the teachers in my county wanted a raise. They county refused. So the teachers began "working to the rule"; they did nothing that was not in their job descriptions. No volunteering to coach after-school sports. No sponsoring of clubs. Nothing. The students were outraged, because all of our clubs and sports were going away. So I formed a group to try to fix the solution. It seemed completely simple to me! The government needed to pay the teachers more! Boom! Problem solved!

At that point in my life, I had no idea that the money that the government used for (among other things) paying teachers came from taxes, which came from my parents' wallet.

It was a concept I could have grasped at the time, but no one ever told me. And it would have changed how I looked at the whole situation. It would have been useful information. But I wasn't taught it, yet, because it wasn't yet a necessity.

-BP

[0] or is purported to, anyway...

2dogs
July 16, 2003, 01:29 PM
girls having cooties

Whoa, you're messin' with sacred 2nd grade knowledge there fella!:neener:

I'm playing a bit of devil's advocate here. I really do however believe that a 2nd grader is not going to understand the Consitution no matter what language you put it in, and in the long run he may benefit more from having seen it as it was written, with awe and wonder (as we of a certain age did)- and WANT to know more about it as we mature.

We'll see I suppose.

seeker_two
July 16, 2003, 01:59 PM
Why would someone feel compelled to translate the Constitution...
My guess is because we are producing a generation of idiots who believe it when they are told that they are unable to interpret the Constitution on their own, and therefore need a super idiot to translate it for them.

creating a linguistically-simpler version of a document, so that kids can grasp what its meaning is

I'm eagerly awaiting the Ebonics version of the Constitution now...:scrutiny:

When did education become an unattainable goal?...:rolleyes:

David Park
July 16, 2003, 08:02 PM
Why is everyone so upset about this? First of all, this is for kids. They need simpler language. tyme wrote, "Much more valuable would be to leave it intact and provide a copious amount of notes." Isn't that what she's doing? The original text is included in the book side-by-side with the translation, and additional notes and history are also provided.

Second, her translation gets it right. Statists love to either obscure plain meaning or find hidden meaning in the text of the Constitution. When faced with translations like "citizens have the right to own firearms" it makes their job much harder. Isn't that a good thing?

But what do I know? I'm currently reading the entire Bible (NIV translation) and obviously I would have been better off spending a few years learning Hebrew and Greek first. :rolleyes:

BrokenPaw
July 17, 2003, 10:43 AM
David, what you're seeing is anti-PC backlash run amok. The PC movement has been turning everything into mush by making sure that there's a dumbed-down version of everything, so that Poor Underprivileged Inner City Youths can have the benefit of not having to actually learn the English Language, because, after all, their urban patois is "cultural".[0]

However, a pendulum can swing too far in either direction, and it seems that some people here believe that any simplification of anything, for any reason, is mere watering-down of actual Honest-To-God content, like we had to deal with back when we were kids.[1]

I imagine that these people (if they're Christian) read their Bibles in the original Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, because an English version is (of course) merely PC nonsense, and anyone who can't read classical greek is, after all, not serious about their beliefs.

They teach their kids to read with Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare, because "Clifford the Big Red Dog" is far too watered down, and only promotes laziness of educational attitude. Why lower the bar to such a level?

They scoff at people who take newbies to the range and give them a .22 to start with. Why bother with such a wussy round, after all? Pretty much everyone agrees that a .22 is a non-optimal self-defense round, so why would you bother with it? People should be learning how to shoot real guns.

They don't let their driving-age kids practice in a parking lot, because it "doesn't have all of the hazards of the real road, so it's not worth pursuing." Kids, after all, never need to start learning something by learning a simpler subset, and then moving on to advanced skills.

They take their kids to the range, run a target out to 200 yards, hand the kid a rifle, and say "go to it". Kids shouldn't need to learn the basics of sight picture, breathing control, and trigger finesse; having them shoot at 5-yard targets until they're confident with the weapon is just PC catering to their nampy-pamby self-esteem.

Reductio ad absurdum. Quod erat demonstrandum.

-BP

[0] Or something.
[1] And we dealt with it while walking uphill both ways to school, and we liked it, and so on...

Partisan Ranger
July 17, 2003, 10:53 AM
To believe that the 2nd Amendment only applies to maintaining militias, you have to be utterly ignorant of American history. Let's see, America had just broken from a tyrannical government (using the force of arms, not asking nicely to be left alone), and the 2nd Continental Congress forms a Bill of Rights that guarantees the right to bear arms to THE GOVERNMENT?!?!?!

I can understand how that makes sense to a leftist parasite; facts and logic aren't their cup of tea. But this tells me that the founders wanted to guarantee the right to bear arms to all citizens to keep the government from getting too big for its britches.

twoblink
July 18, 2003, 01:38 PM
Lupu also questioned the translation's version of the much-disputed Second Amendment, which includes the phrase "citizens have the right to own firearms."

"A lot of people believe the amendment was intended only to protect the rights of states to maintain militias and not to guarantee a right to ordinary citizens," he said.

A lot of my friends believe that they are going to date Jennifer Garner..

:rolleyes:

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