- Age Range: 18 and up
- Grade Level: 06 - 08
- Lexile Measure: 1340L (What's this?)
- Series: Stonesong Press Books
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Books (February 18, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 078688620X
- ISBN-13: 978-0786886203
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 108 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution (Stonesong Press Books)
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he United States Constitution is the basis for our most fundamental rights as Americans, and is a key element in nearly every major legal and political debate ever argued. But how many of us actually understand the language used by our Founding Fathers Now Linda R. Monk, an award-winning author and journalist, takes us through the Constitution, line by line, to help us comprehend this amazing document. From the Preamble, which she analyzes with inspiration from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Charlton Heston, and James Madison, to each and every amendment, Monk offers insight, legal expertise, surprising facts and trivia, opposing interpretations, and historical anecdotes to breathe life into this provocative and hallowed document.
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Update: I also decided to give copies to the history and law teachers at my daughter's high school - it's a great teacher's resource.
BTW, did not have any ordering problems -- that issue seems to be resolved as long as you order the one with the black circle in the top right corner, which is actually the new edition, not 2004 as listed on the site.
Monk recognises the importance of the Constitution, and its unique place in history, but does not give it false priority by forgetting its historic underpinnings. The founders who gathered in convention in 1787 brought their backgrounds and training with them, as well as a sense of self-government and an awareness of what might work and not work in the newly formed nation, gained from 150 years of essentially self-rule as colonies.
The framers of the Constitution were not under the illusion that they were creating a perfect document, as Monk states, quoting Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes - `it is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.' The preamble of the Constitution, perhaps the best know part, strives to form `a more perfect union', not a perfect one.
Monk draws information from the Federalist papers, other documents contemporary with the Constitution, and artwork and illustrations to help the text come alive. For each section, be they preamble, article, or amendment, Monk first sets forth the text, and then provides a passage-by-passage commentary. Often this refers to court cases, government structures and procedures, and significant events that helped to shape the Constitution, even as it has worked to shape American society. There are side notes with definitions for key words and terms, quotable quotes from historians as well as historical figures, and text boxes separate from the main text body to draw particular emphasis on points of greater interest in contemporary issues (George Will on the question of term limits for Congress; Benjamin Franklin on property qualifications for voting; etc.).
Monk ends as she began, writing of the Constitution as words to live by in the future. She characterises the ongoing debate as one between different ideas of freedom - some see freedom as freedom from something (government intrusion and more), whereas others see freedom as freedom to achieve something. How this will ultimately be played out on a constitutional level is speculation, as is the conjecture on what may become future amendments to the Constitution.
Overall, this was a fun book to read, informative and interesting. Monk draws text box and side-bar quotations and examples from across the political spectrum and across American history, to give a reasonable balance toward the issues politically. This is useful particularly for high school and undergraduate civics and political science classes, as well as American history classes. It is also good for general readers, and has a layout that shows an awareness of the importance of different colours, images, typefaces and more for keeping visual interest in addition to interest in content.
This will help one live by the words more fully.