The Tinker Test of Reality

Article excerpt

A public school, this morning.

"Article four, please."

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

"Thank you." My teacher turns and writes on the chalkboard: 1791--The Bill of Rights. "Today we continue our discussion on civil liberties. To review, why were civil liberties important to the Founding Fathers?" A hand raises. "Yes?"

"They wanted to protect the American people from the tyranny that they had suffered while under British colonial rule."

"Very good. The history of American freedom is the history of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the American Constitution. This is basic American history--it is how we got where we are now."

American history class, today. The Bill of Rights is history. It is the past: written and ratified by a bunch of dead white guys more than 200 years ago. That's what our teacher is telling us right now. But don't take his word for it.

"Okay, people, who can tell me what symbolic speech is? Right, a nonverbal act intended to convey a message. How about imminent danger?" Another hand. "Go ahead."

"Um, you can only be punished for statements if there is an imminent danger that the statement will incite an unlawful act."

"Right. Now, lets.... "The bell rings. Our principal speaks over the public-address system. …