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The general consensus was that the federal government needed more power. They decided to hold a convention in Philadelphia in to revise the failing Articles of Confederation. Originally, the plan was just to tweak things here and there, without reinventing the entire government, but once they popped, they just couldn't stop. The end result was a brand spanking new government.

This Constitutional Convention would determine the fate of the nation, and out of it would come our Constitution. The goal was to get representatives from each state to gather to address the shortcomings of the Articles and how to revise them.

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Amazingly, that "firm league of friendship" idea hit a roadblock when Rhode Island decided not to show up for the convention. And although it may seem like the Founding Fathers were all BFFs with matching wigs, you'll also learn about the many compromises made during the drafting of the Constitution as well as the two party system that developed during this time period and how it still works "works" is a relative term, of course today. So, let's explore the road that got us from weak-sauce Articles of Confederation to He-Man warrior Constitution. Despite all of the great reasons below for why you should care about the making of the Constitution, we're going to hit you with a 21st-century example first.

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In , an year-old high school student named Joseph Frederick in Juneau, Alaska, unfurled a foot-long banner just outside school grounds amid the crowd that had gathered to watch the Olympic torch relay pass through town on its way to the Winter Games at Salt Lake City, Utah. The banner referred to marijuana use and read " Bong Hits 4 Jesus. They'd been let out of classes and were accompanied by their teachers. By refusing when the principal ordered him to take down the banner, Frederick was—according to school officials—violating a school policy by promoting illegal drug use.

As the school board's lawyers noted in their Supreme Court appeal, "Bong is a slang term for drug paraphernalia. Frederick sued the school board on the grounds that his First Amendment right to free speech was infringed upon. The 9th U. They concluded that the school couldn't show Frederick had disrupted the school's educational mission by displaying a banner off campus.

The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit relied on the precedent of the Supreme Court's famous "Tinker" case, in which two Iowa high students were allowed to continue wearing anti-Vietnam War armbands.

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The Juneau school board appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, and on June 25th, , the Court decided in five-to-four favor of the school board in the case of Morse v. The majority—represented by Chief Justice John Roberts —argued that since "schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use," the school didn't violate Frederick's First Amendment rights by confiscating his banner and suspending him. Dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens —who was joined by Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and David Souter—instead wrote that "Although this case began with a silly, nonsensical banner, it ends with the Court inventing out of whole cloth [essentially, this means "out of thin air"] a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, at least so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message.

Given the fact that the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court disagreed, and that this case was decided by the closest possible majority on the Supreme Court itself, it demonstrates the ongoing debates—in the legal field and far beyond—over the meaning or means of interpreting the Constitution. There are often high stakes involved in these debates, as evidenced in the Frederick case. Maybe some of those conversations involve the concept of constitutionality. For the answer to all these questions and more—including, "What's the difference between the House and the Senate and why do we need both?

Because it's all here: the foundation of American government as we know it. Just imagine trying to do this from scratch.


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Forget everything you know about the three branches of government, the term limits for the president and congressional representatives, the Supreme Court's right of judicial review, Congress' ability to override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority, and so on. Now visualize yourself attempting to invent all of that. Amidst a great deal of domestic strife, because your current government isn't working and you've got an empty Treasury, a broke, grumpy army to deal with, and broke, grumpy citizens who are waging armed insurrections because they're desperate.

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