Declarational Law

Constitution BA Florida judge recently ruled that evaluating teachers on students’ math and reading standardized test scores was constitutional – even if the teachers didn’t teach math or reading. I work in education so have a professional interest in this topic. Assessing teachers on subjects they don’t teach seems contrary to common sense. What next? We’ll be assessing how well a student writes based on how cute they are and electing politicians based on how much money they can raise – Wait we already do this. The government is always doing stupid things in education. I hardly bat an eye anymore. Stupid is almost expected in education.

Teacher evaluation cartoon

But this judicial ruling has been nagging at me for a while and I’ve just figured out why. The judge in the case ruled that the assessments were constitutional, but he also said they were unfair.

Constitutional but unfair.

Constitutional but unfair?

I’m not going to argue law in this particular case, this judge is probably right that it is legal – but stupid – to assess Florida teachers on things they can’t control – a jury of 1st graders could understand that, but this ruling is no crazier than some. Somehow, in my own education to-date I’d formed the impression that the Constitution, and by extension the laws that we pass in this country, are all about fairness. Constitutional but unfair seems paradoxical.

I can think of examples of laws and practices being upheld as constitutional and fair (or not unfair) or being struck down because they were unconstitutional and unfair, but I just can’t think of another law that was deemed constitutional AND unfair. It’s new in my experience.

“We the People…in Order to form a more perfect Union” – sounds like an opening gambit for fairness, but it’s really the Bill of Rights I’m thinking of. A lot of this document is about keeping the government from overreaching and infringing on personal rights; surely an exercise in fairness.

I know the world isn’t fair, we don’t all get to be millionaires or win Oscars or be 5’10”, but somehow I thought that our founding fathers crafted a document that would check the excesses of government stupidity and insure individual freedoms. You know, create a country where “All men [sic] are created equal” and some “truths are self-evident” – but now I seem to have wandered off into the Declaration of Independence.

Quiz Declare or Constitute
Test your Constitutional/Declarational knowledge

Maybe that’s the problem. We talk about whether laws are Constitutional or not, but maybe we really want to know if laws are Declarational or not. Are they self-evident? Do they help us pursue happiness?

We mix up the two documents all the time. Even our political leaders can’t keep them straight (and here). Take the quiz yourself.

I’ve always understood the Constitution as a protection of my individual rights, but now, I’m looking at it the way you look at your BFF after seeing her in Las Vegas for the first time – who are you and what have you condomdone with my friend?

The laws of this country do provide protection, but I wonder if this protection has some significant holes in it.

I’m Jae and I hold this message to be self-evident.



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