PHILADELPHIA -- On Sept. 16, middle and high school students will visit courthouses across the country to commemorate Constitution Day and talk with federal judges about the issues raised in a nationwide satellite broadcast featuring U.S. Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer.
During the program, sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, educators and media groups and the sitting justices engage in a frank dialogue with Philadelphia-area students about interpreting and applying the Constitution, including timely questions about what it takes to overturn precedent and how this document allocates and balances powers between federal and state government.
"As our country grapples with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Constitution Day offers young people an opportunity to learn how a cornerstone of our democracy- the concept of federalism- shapes our lives," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Center.
Nearly 1,200 educators and public officials have registered to use the pre-recorded program with the Supreme Court justices and the other free classroom-ready materials. In addition to the student-judge dialogues, secondary and higher education institutions are planning special classes, campus events and school- or district-wide broadcasts on Sept. 16. The Internet will also play a role, with students participating in interactive online sessions with judges and other public officials.
"We're thrilled by the overwhelming interest in our balanced, thoughtful programs and delighted they will help so many students take part in the first national day devoted to teaching the next generation about the Constitution," said Kathryn Kolbert, executive producer of NPR's "Justice Talking" and JusticeLearning.org, a lead sponsor of the civics-education initiative.
Information about events in specific localities is available upon request. Preview clips of the justices answering questions about federalism, overruling precedent and civil liberties in wartime, are online at www.justicelearning.org and advance copies of the full program are also available.
On Sept. 16, media organizations can view the program featuring the justices online at www.justicelearning.org or downlink the special via satellite from noon to 12:30 p.m. (EDT) and again from 3 to 3:30 p.m. (EDT). From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. (EDT) that same afternoon, NPR's "Justice Talking" will broadcast a live debate on "Free Speech in the Digital Age" with First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and Motion Picture Association Past President Jack Valenti attended by students from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
(Satellite: Ku Band Analog, 74 degrees W, SBS 6, Transponder 17, Frequency 12117.00 Horiz. Start time: test, 11:30 a.m.; broadcast, noon; end, 4 p.m., EDT)
The Penn Video Network, the University's cable television and special video events network (channel 24) will broadcast the programming to College Halls, GreekNet-wired fraternity and sorority chapter houses and more than 60 academic and administrative buildings on campus.
This is the first year that federal law requires educational institutions receiving federal funds to create educational programming on or around the day, Sept. 17, in 1787 that the U.S. Constitution was ratified.
To help schools comply with the new federal requirement, the Annenberg Public Policy Center NPR radio series "Justice Talking" partnered with the National Archives and Records Administration, the New York Times Knowledge Network, the America Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Bar Association Division of Public Education, the Center for Civic Education, the Close-UP Foundation, the Marshall-Brennan Legal Fellowship Program, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the National Conference on Citizenship, the National Constitution Center, National History Day, Presidential Classroom, Street Law, the Annenberg/CPB Foundation and C-SPAN.
The Constitution Day Made Easy broadcasts and companion materials are made possible by the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands and the Foundation for the National Archives.