It’s safe the say that most, if not all Americans, know about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but what about their historical context? And what’s the difference between civil and criminal court cases?
The American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania is hoping to address questions like these in its continuing series “Civics for Grown Ups.”
The month-long, four-part series will take place at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill and classes will be taught by experienced attorneys and educators.
Barb Feige, deputy director of the ACLU, said the course is like any other, just without the tests.
“It’s like a class,” she said. “There’s no grading. There’s no testing. We may have a quiz here and there, but you won’t get a grade at the end of it.”
Each class will focus on a different subject. Starting Wednesday, May 7, Anthony Infanti, associate dean at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, will lead a discussion on the history of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Feige said the class is built to be a refresher course for adults who might have forgotten what they learned in school.
“I am sure that whatever quiz we might give, that your average middle schooler probably could answer more questions than some of us grown-ups who don’t actually remember all of the details that kids are getting in a set curriculum,” she said.
On May 14, Ubong Akpan of the Federal Public Defender’s office will lead a class on law creation and enforcement. The following week, Marshall Dayan, an assistant federal public defender, will speak about some of the most controversial issues surrounding the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech and search and seizures.
In its fourth year, Feige said the program is leading to a more educated citizenry.
“We hope that teaching folks about their civil rights will raise their awareness about when those rights and those liberties are being infringed upon, and so that they can recognize when that happens and speak out about it,” she said.
The final class in the series will cover the responsibilities of the government and its citizens and will be led by Richard Malmstrom, an American history teacher at The Ellis School in Shadyside.
All classes are free and open to the public. Those interested in attending can register online.