My Favorite Item from the Bill of Rights

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
                                                                              Constitution of the United States, Amendment III

I love the Third Amendment.

It is not at all controversial. Only once in the history of the United States has the Third Amendment been used to decide  court case (Engbloom v. Carey, 2nd Circuit, 1982.) There have in reality been violations of the amendment, usually when lands and buildings are used without the requisite legislation during wartime, but the Third Amendment has generally been well respected  by the government.

If restrictions on the quartering of troops are so uncontroversial and nobody ever thinks to put soldiers in private homes anyway, the strawman I am constructing just asked, then why even bother having an amendment to cover it?

Quartering of soldiers was a fact of life during the colonial times. Families had to give up living space, or space that could have been used to earn money renting to boarders, to make room for uninvited Redcoat guests. Let me assure you, despite the image created on screen of soldiers in highly maintained rooms who make their beds so coins can bounce off them and who are absolutely adamant about placing everything exactly where it belongs, soldiers in real life are not always the people you want as a roommate. Soldiers get to be loud and obnoxious. For them, drinking is a sport, and soldiers coming home late and none too quietly is not unheard of. Is this type of soldier typical? Honestly, no, most soldiers are great friends and companions, but there are enough of the sluggard type to say it is not really unusual.

It is not just the forced cohabitation with a low life that is the problem. The very fact that somebody has been placed in your house against your will is unsettling. Having a soldier in the house could seem like you are being monitored, like you are living under surveillance, as a tourist in  communist country might have a handler while over there. If you had a Redcoat at your dining room table, do you really think you would be free criticize King George? If you had a soldier watching the evening news with you each night, would you be as quick to complain about President Obama?

Memories of this time before the Revolution lingered, so when it came time for the first Congress to get around to adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution, quartering of troops was still a violation remembered by many in the young country, which explains its inclusion in the Bill of Rights. So, while there was a reluctance for that Congress to put soldiers into private homes anyway, they wanted to ensure that is would not happen to future generations. They also wanted to ensure the populace that the national government could be trusted to safeguard their rights.

I like that the Bill of Rights a covers items that we no longer even think of as targets for violation. I think that the country would be much better off if we had more of the amendments from the Bill of Rights that we viewed in the same way.


Wi-Fi Sigh

"In a country where we demand free wi-fi with our coffee, we should certainly demand it in our schools."
                                                                                      -Barrack Obama

Does he realize that most students don't even drink coffee?

Not really funny, but when it comes to education reform, wi-fi in schools is hardly a priority, though the folks at OFA who run Obama's Twitter account seem to want #Connected to trend today, so they are touting some of the president's ideas. In addition to the wi-fi, they want paid more funding for expanded pre-K.

In a normal school though the high school level, I don't see what difference Wi-Fi would make to education. Most classes at those levels do not require a bunch of research, and the students should be learning how to conduct research using print media anyway. Teach them the basic research skills before expanding.

This is not to say that wi-fi and expanded internet access cannot be helpful to education, but to deem it a necessity, or even a priority, is a mistake. Yes Google and even Wikipedia can be great research tools, but honestly, the biggest use student would get out of wi-fi would be the ability to update their Facebook status without biting into the data allotment on their calling plan.

The expanded pre-K plan has its own problems. Any educational benefits from pre-K disappear after just a few years, meaning that, by the time they reach third or fourth grade, children who attend pre-K do not seem to perform better than students who did not attend pre-K. With this in mind, is it really a good use of public funds to expand a program with very little, if any real benefit?

There are reforms that can be encouraged that would help education, but for some reason the president does not seem to be as interested in them. I am not going to say definitively that the reason is the NEA, but I am not going to discourage anybody from inferring it. One basic reform is encouraging school choice through voucher or alternate funding programs. While Oliver Brown might have sued the Topeka Board of Education to allow his daughter to attend the nearest school, today many parents see better opportunities in schools that might not be right around the corner. They should be allowed to place their children in the schools that best suit their preferences.

Basically, I want to see whatever money we do spend on education to make a difference for out students. Wi-fi might be a nice for schools to have, but it is not necessary, and should not be a spending priority.