Reflecting on Constitution Day and the 19th Amendment

Constitution Day, cel­e­brat­ed Sept 17th, com­mem­o­rates the for­ma­tion and the sign­ing of the U.S. Constitution. This year also marks the 100th anniver­sary of the pas­sage of the 19th Amendment, which pro­vides men and women with equal vot­ing rights. The amend­ment states that the right of cit­i­zens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” As their way of hon­or­ing the day, Bristol High School stu­dents study­ing AP US History and those enrolled in the AVID 11 pro­gram were able to par­tic­i­pate in a live­ly dis­cus­sion with past and cur­rent Bucks pro­fes­sors, a Bucks stu­dent, and a mem­ber of the League of Women Voters.

a woman standing in front of a podiumBristol stu­dents kept pan­el mem­bers on their toes with ques­tions such as, “If you could cur­rent­ly add any amend­ment to the constitution,what would it be?” and “Doesn’t enforc­ing a manda­to­ry quo­ta on the hir­ing of women defeat the pur­pose of true equal­i­ty?” Their ques­tions were met by thought pro­vok­ing insights from a range of per­spec­tives. In prepa­ra­tion for the event, stu­dents read a vari­ety of back­ground mate­ri­als and many were sur­prised to learn some star­tling facts about the advance­ment of equal rights. For exam­ple, pri­or to 1974, women couldn’t get cred­it cards in their own names. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 gave women that right, forc­ing cred­it card com­pa­nies to issue cards to women with­out a husband’s sig­na­ture. In today’s world of plas­tic cash, this fact was shock­ing to both male and female high school stu­dents. One female stu­dent, cur­rent­ly con­sid­er­ing a future in the mil­i­tary, was astound­ed to learn that the ban against women in mil­i­tary com­bat posi­tions was only removed six years ago in 2013. Even more sur­pris­ing to the BHS stu­dents was that the ERA which states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” has been in Congressional lim­bo since 1923, and still needs one more state to rat­i­fy the amend­ment before it can be added to the Constitution. The over­all impres­sion left on the stu­dents by the all-female pan­el prompt­ed deep crit­i­cal think­ing and self-reflection about their roles in affect­ing Constitutional change.

3 boys sitting in chairs in the audienceBristol High School’s close loca­tion to the Epstein Campus makes col­lab­o­ra­tion between the high school and com­mu­ni­ty col­lege a fre­quent perk in the learn­ing and expe­ri­ences of our students.