Regarding the New, Improved Second Amendment, Indoctrination and Hanlon’s Razor

Just in time for the latest round of political exploitation of a gun-related tragedy, it has been discovered that a school history textbook used in some Texas  high schools (and probably others) mis-states the meaning of the Second Amendment, neatly editing away the part that all the controversy is about.

In fact, John J. Newman’s “United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination,” rewrites the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. On page 102 of Newman’s book (page 134 of the PDF version), the author summarizes the amendment in a way that distorts its meaning:

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Could this be intentional? Well, it is certainly wrong, and one is not being conspiratorial to wonder how such a blatant error 1) got into a history text in the first place , 2) passed any review process, and 3) lasted this long.

It is well-established that the Second Amendment  guarantees the individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and not only in a militia. How far that guarantee extends is indeed a matter of intense debate, but Newman has misleadingly limited that right only to those who are members of a government militia, essentially editing the amendment right into obsolescence.  Though that is clearly where many anti-gun zealots, including Senator Diane Fienstein, CNN talk-meister Piers Morgan, and many others would like to see it go, it is not the current state of the law, and never has been.The Supreme Court opinion in  District of Columbia vs Heller (2008), which is not mentioned in the textbook, held that the Second Amendment “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

There is no defending Newman’s textbook, except as a justifiable attempt to destroy the Second Amendment by teaching students that the right to bear arms doesn’t exist in the modern world—in other words, by using deception and indoctrination. Continue reading

The Ignorant Citizen’s Ethical Duty Not To Make Others As Stupid As He Is

Here is the problem, of which the worst of the Tea Party movement is only the latest in a long line of examples.

We want typical citizens to participate in the democratic process. It is critical that they do. But the Framers recognized that participation in self-government needs to be responsible, and that responsible democratic government requires knowledge, common sense, and wisdom. They also recognized that the majority of any population doesn’t possess that; this is why they originally limited the right to vote.

Okay, that was a big mistake: if you are going to have free society, everyone should have a say in it. Still, a citizen has an obligation to be civically literate before he or she starts trying to tell everyone else the best way to run the town, the state or the country, and civic literacy, as anyone can tell by reading the comments on any news or public affairs website (except this one, of course), civic literacy, not to mention common sense, is in short supply. People either don’t value civic literacy, or more likely, don’t recognize when they don’t have it. Continue reading