A Needed Controversy: The Supreme Court, The Board of Regents and the School Board

Newt Gingrich created quite a stir when he questioned the supremacy of the U.S. Supreme Court over the other two branches of our federal government.  The controversy was very revealing.

What Mr. Gingrich said was that the federal government was to be composed of three separate but equal branches of government.  And the judiciary was to be the weakest of the three branches.

Those points, in themselves, would be news to a number of Americans (maybe a majority?), but what was really controversial was his suggestion that from time to time the other two branches of government should exercise their own powers to “check” the power of the Supreme Court.  For liberals, this was outrageous because the Court has become the means by which they achieve policy and political goals without convincing the American people of the merits of those policies and goals.

What is truly sad is that a majority of Americans don’t know their history and they don’t understand their constitution or form of government.  (Let me encourage you to read the “white paper” on the issue published by the Gingrich campaign.)  I admire Gingrich for bringing up the subject and, when attacked, not backing down.  It’s time we have a national discussion about the role of the judiciary, and it’s time that it be historically accurate.

But having a Presidential candidate raise the issue or even having a sitting President raise the issue is not enough.  It’s not enough so long as our schools and universities (and law schools) are churning out students who don’t know the history and truth about our form of government.  Without a change in what we teach, a President raising and debating the issue with the press is like taking one step forward and two steps backwards.  We’re undermining ourselves.

So what can we do? Well, for one, we should consider the view of each Presidential candidate on his or her understanding of our form of government, the separation of powers, and the role and place of the judiciary (this is NOT an endorsement of Gingrich because I do not think he’s alone in his understanding).

But there is a second thing we can do.  We can pay more attention to who we elect to our local school boards.  The local schools decide which of the state-approved textbooks they will use for students in the school system.  And we can hold them accountable for the textbooks they select.  And we can pay more attention to what books our state textbook commission approves for selection by the local school systems.

And, our legislature can pay more attention to who they allow the Governor to appoint to the boards of the University of Tennessee system and the Board of Regents.  These positions are too important to simply be a political reward.  These governing boards can exert more control over what is going on at our universities if they are willing to do so.

FACT will do what it can to bring this issue to the forefront, but the change will come when parents decide to take control of their local school board to whom they entrust their children and when we insist that our legislators, on our behalf, take control of our university systems.

These issues are just too important to ignore.