Amity Shlaes thinks the reason grade-schoolers are being arrested for classroom misbehavior is that they are being treated as if they have rights, and they shouldn’t be.

The headline’s great: “School Kids in Handcuffs Reveal Teacher Bondage.” Really! Leading someone off in chains without justification proves he has too much protection from arbitrary power!

While arresting someone does mean treating him as the sort of person who has rights and can be held accountable for violating the rights of others, surely it is possible to recognize that students have rights while granting teachers enough authority to run their classrooms. One solution: Make education voluntary, so that schools’ and teachers’ authority can be granted by their students, just as colleges and their professors and administrators get their authority from students’ decisions to matriculate.

Tom W. Bell argues that it can only be true that “We the people … ordain and establish this Constitution” — a statement in the present tense — if the Constitution is the act of the living people of the United States, not of the generation that adopted it in the 18th century. Therefore, he says, we must “read it through living eyes,” not through the eyes of the Founding generation.

I’m not sure about the grammatical point, but I agree that the moral authority of the Constitution must come from the living people. However, this does not mean what the advocates of the “living constitution” commonly support in practice: that the current Justices must read the Constitution in light of the needs of the day as the Justices understand those needs. If the Constitution still has the support of the sovereign people, it is the written Constitution that has that support. The question in constitutional interpretation, if it is to be interpretation, cannot be, “What do today’s Americans need from their Constitution?” Rather, the interpretive question should be, “What can we understand modern Americans to be saying by adopting these words which we have inherited?”

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