Recognizing Constitution and Citizenship Day is Important

Author: Emily Farris (Texas Christian University).
Most universities know September 17 as Constitution Day. However, it is also known as Citizenship Day.
Constitution Day was actually created to celebrate U.S. citizenship. In 1940, Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing President Roosevelt to designate the third Sunday of May “I Am an American Day”.
The day was first moved from May to September 17 in 1952 to commemorate the 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution. In 2004, Congress changed the day’s name to “Constitution and Citizenship Day.” This also required that educational institutions receiving Federal funding hold a program for students each September 17.
The day commemorates the Constitution and provides an opportunity for Political Science instructors, to encourage students to think critically on citizenship and immigration in American Politics.
The Trump administration is delaying naturalization applications, preventing new citizens from voting this autumn. This issue is timely and important.
Here are some strategies to consider:
Ask students to analyze the Naturalization Process
Dr. Alvaro Corral has an idea: “My students are filming FlipGrid videos on the naturalization process.”
To spark discussion, he explained that his students had read the N400 form. He was particularly interested in part 12, “Have You EVER been a member or in any way connected (directly or indirectly) with: the Communist Party?”
He asks students to find local resources to prepare for the English or Civics exams, and to take them themselves. They discuss the cost of the classes and the location, as well as the $725 fee required for naturalization and USCIS’s citizenship rights and responsibilities.
Discuss how citizenship is constructed
A way to remember both days is to discuss and debate the 14th Amendment as well as how citizenship is constructed.
The 14th Amendment states that anyone born in the United States or naturalized therein is a citizen of the United States. Trump’s administration has attacked this issue.
Dr. Candis WattsSmith recommends that students read a portion from the Dred Scott majority decision. “It gives a history about all the ways in which black legislators never intended for them to be citizens.”
Dr. Smith suggests that students read Dr. Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s insightful article Constructing Citizenship. Exclusion, Subordination and Resistance. Dr. Smith also suggests an episode of This American Life Episode 2: No place like home, Phone Home to encourage further discussion about citizenship.
Dr. Martha Jones provides additional reading on the origins of the 14th Amendment, which allowed former slaves to be incorporated into the nation.
Cengage hosted webinars on Constitution Day with our Political Science authors. Check out the recordings to get more ideas and insights.