Reading the US Constitution

It’s that time of year when my U.S. history class reads the Constitution.  We’re not through the Articles yet (haven’t even started the Bill of Rights), and it was heavy going for a while.  But now they have enough grounding in the document that the crazy hypothetical questions are starting to come out:

  • Hypothetically, my aunt was accused of child abuse for not letting her son go to school. Then she moved to Arizona before the case went to trial.  What does the constitution say about that?  (Article IV, section 2)
  • Does Texas have to recognize a gay wedding in Connecticut (Article IV, Section 1)
  • Can the Coast Guard arrest me on my boat, when I’m just in Connecticut waters (Article III, section 2)
  • Will Newt Gingrich be able to fire ‘activist judges’ if he becomes President (Article III, section 1)
  • Is this new “indefinite detention” law legal (Article I, section 9)
  • Can Connecticut make me king — not of the US, but just of here? (Article IV, section 4)
  • Can Congress just tax the Millionaires who live in New York State? (Article I, section 9)
  • Could Congress just give the Internet to the Postal Service to run it? (Article I, section 8)
  • Can a Congressman or Senator also be Ambassador to Ireland? (Article I, section 6)

And more…

What are your favorite theoretical questions for the U.S. Constitution?  It occurs to me that I should make up a group of worksheets consisting of nothing other than weird hypothetical cases, hand them out at the start of the week or two we read the US Constitution, and then ask them to turn in the worksheets at the end of the week.

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  1. Gentlemen:

    I just noticed this post and Nate’s reply. I thank both of you and wish you and your students much pleasure in reading the Constitution.

    Best regards,

  2. These are fun and engaging scenarios, Andrew. Thanks for sharing them. I’ve done some similar with my students when teaching about the Constitution using the “Constitutional Scavenger Hunt” by University of Louisville law professor Jim Chen. He’s posted the assignment in PDF form at and created an online version at

    Perhaps this will be a nice supplement to your students. This sort of assignment might also be a nice one to get collaboration/collaborative document going with other teachers to have a large pool of questions/scenarios on which to draw. Thanks again for sharing!

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