From Yale to cosmetology school, Americans brush up on history and government

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Senator Robert C. Byrd, the Democrat from West Virginia who keeps a copy of the Constitution in his pocket, finds the nation's historical amnesia frustrating. In December he inserted into a giant spending bill a passage requiring every American school receiving federal money to teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17, the date it was signed in 1787.

Saturday is the first annual Constitution Day, and Mr. Byrd's law is focusing considerable attention on the document.

Millions of new copies have been printed, and readings and discussion are scheduled at the National Archives, thousands of schools and universities, and even many technical institutes unaccustomed to constitutional debate.

A massage school in Michigan will test students on the Constitution, and students at a cosmetology school in Philadelphia will watch a taped lecture by two Supreme Court justices.

Congress's decision to mandate lessons on the Constitution for every school, however, has also brought forth voices of dismay. The 10th Amendment leaves education to the states, and Congress has rarely dictated what the nation's schools must teach.

Some people fear that Mr. Byrd's initiative has opened the door for lawmakers to mandate other lesson plans, like requiring science teachers to include intelligent design alongside evolution.

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