Should our Constitutions Be Taught at School?

Recently, the Portuguese Green Party (Partido Ecologista os Verdes, PEV), proposed that the 1976 Portuguese Constitution should be taught to middle school students (from 7th to 9th grade). They argue what is undeniable: when students finish their Secondary education, they have no clue about the Constitution that governs their lives. Yet, this proposal was immediately rejected by Fernando Negrão, depute of the centre-right-wing Portuguese Party, (Partido Social Democrata, PSD). Negrão argued that the Portuguese Constitution is “dated” and for that “has a very strong ideological component”, since it is indeed marked by the communist and socialist influence that Portugal lived during the 1974 Revolution and the transition period.

The Portuguese example is just the starting point of our reflection. In a broader reflexion, should the fact that a Constitution reflects biased political ideas, be an obstacle to its learning? Can’t students understand its context and thus look at the text with open mind?

Teaching a country’s Constitution to students seems to us a brilliant idea. We believe that making students aware of what laws govern their country should be made mandatory to develop a conscious and proactive civic society. Yet, doing this for 12 to 15 year old students would be probably pointless, and high school’s final year seems more appropriate to such an ambitious teaching. But isn’t this a great idea that should be applied to all democratic countries?

Consulting a French Law teacher on this matter, her opinion opened another door for reflexion. If the Portuguese Constitution is biased, what if the European Convention on Human Rights was taught in class since it reflects the values and fundamental liberties of the European Societ


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