Thinking about Government, by Passages student Amber Burns

Posted on Wednesday April 12, 2017

statue     When I started learning about U.S. history and citizenship, I thought it was going to be really hard. Now I’m glad I know more about what the state spends and how all the money is used, and more about the history of civil and voting rights.

I didn’t realize that even after women got the right to vote in 1920, they still couldn’t do much else. I didn’t know women needed permission to have a bank account and they couldn’t have birth control without their husband’s permission. That explains why families used to be so much bigger.  My grandfather wouldn’t allow my grandmother to use birth control and she had seven kids. I kind of knew about how minorities didn’t have many legal rights until the 1950s and 60s, but I didn’t know that you could literally be killed for trying to vote, or for eating at a lunch counter, going to an all-white school, or basically just leaving your part of town. I didn’t know that it was significantly after everyone else, in 1948, that all Native Americans got the right to vote. I never really thought about this. I just thought everyone had the right to vote.

I didn’t know that President Trump would get to pick everybody in his cabinet and that his appointments need to get the approval of Congress.  I learned that it was set up this way in the Constitution so we wouldn’t end up with a dictatorship.

I learned that the Constitution contains all the rights and responsibilities for citizens and that it can protect us more than hurt us by giving people a fair trial, the right to free speech and assembly, which means protest, the right to vote, the right to own guns, and the right to choose your religion.  When the Constitution was written in 1787, it said that only white, Protestant, land-owning men could vote. This was less than 10% of the population.  Over time, amendments to the Constitution were voted in to make changes.

Another thing about the Constitution is that it outlines the three branches of government, the executive, judicial, and congressional branches, and what they can and cannot control.  It was designed this way so that no one branch can have all the power.

After 230 years of the Constitution, it’s still around and it works. I think it’s good because it guarantees fair trials, people aren’t allowed to be improperly treated by police officers, and I can, as a citizen use the amendments to my benefit. They allow me choice and protection. As a citizen, you really should vote if you can. One of my old teachers always said, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about what happens.”