Constitutional Crisis Could Result in Loss of People’s Sovereignty, Says Hillsdale College President

Kevin Mooney | December 9, 2008 | 7:55pm EST
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Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn

( - A new political party devoted to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution is needed to help restore representative government at a time when the people’s sovereignty, their title to rule, is in danger of being lost, Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, said Friday at the Heritage Foundation.
Under the guise of education, academic elites have been engaged in social engineering that is at odds with the American principles of limited government and individual liberty, Arnn said at the conservative think tank.
Arnn was particularly critical of the founding document of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and encouraged audience members to examine key phrases that focus on the concept of “social evolution,” and how this desire to manage large scale societal changes could beget unsavory influences.
“No person of intelligence believes that all of our political problems have been solved, or that the final stage of social evolution has been reached,” the document reads in part.
“We are not drifting anymore, we’re moving somewhere else and it has its hard side,” Arnn said. This “hard side” means the government will be in a stronger position to pick winners and losers, to control speech, and to regulate elections, he said.
To help reverse this crisis, Arnn proposed a new political party.
Arnn then credited former President Ronald Reagan for recognizing the proper boundaries and limits of federal power and encouraged students to be mindful of his example. Reagan’s  “Time for Choosing”  speech delivered in October 1964 and his first Inaugural Address in 1981, offered up strong testaments to the distinguishing features of a U.S. Constitutional order that make representative government possible, Arnn said.
Reagan noted on multiple occasions in his 1964 speech that the federal government was intruding into areas it did not have any constitutional authority, Arnn said.
In that speech, Reagan seized upon the activities of the Department of Agriculture to drive his point home.
“A government can't control the economy without controlling people” Reagan said. “And they [the Founding Fathers] know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”
“Now, we have no better example of this than the government's involvement in the farm economy over the last 30 years,” said Reagan. “Since 1955, the cost of this program has nearly doubled.”
Unfortunately, after Reagan left the national stage the succeeding generations of politicians have shifted the country in the direction of “extra-constitutional exercises,” Arnn said. This has been particularly true with regard to education following the end of the Cold War, he warned. 
The idea of “top down testing” enshrined in President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Act is not entirely without merit in terms of methodology, Arnn said.

At Oxford University in England, for instance, students are graded anonymously at the end of their school years in a series of examinations by professors who did not teach during their previous three years, he said.
This type of testing has its virtues and might be incorporated into the Hillsdale curriculum, he said. However, the imposition of national testing standards should not be a function of the federal government, he argued.
In fact, there is a real danger that academics could use national testing standards to further erode the public’s connection to important historical events.
The new $621 million Capitol Visitors Center (in the U.S. Capitol), which is in many respects a byproduct of the academic establishment, is replete with historical errors that should be corrected and points to the potential dangers of national testing, Arnn said.
As previously reported, some lawmakers say the current displays distort American history.  The proper way to deal with “the abomination underground” is to make an issue out of it, gain control of Congress, and have it re-opened again with necessary corrections that are reflective of history, said Arnn.
Despite its flaws, the U.S. Constitution has benefitted succeeding generations of Americans and can do so again by way of properly understanding the historical record, said Arnn.
“Evil and wicked though the Constitution is, it is the best thing of its kind written, by a very great lot,” he said.
“If we cut ourselves off from that thing [the Constitution], which has won the loyalty of American people for 200 years and put ourselves in the posture that it was a mistake to begin with, then we cast ourselves into a void,” said Arnn, “and think of the intellectual climate today, what that will do if we start over.” 
Arnn’s lecture, “Crisis of American Constitutionalism,” was sponsored by  the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C, which was officially launched on Nov. 3. The Center’s objective is to teach Hillsdale College students who are participating in internships and fellowships in Washington D.C.
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