In in 1787, after the colonies had won independence from the tyranny of Great Britain, they sent delegates to Philadelphia to "frame" the rules for the citizens of our new nation. The result is the Constitution of the United States of America-- a four page document with 4,591 words, including signatures. Over the years, another 3,048 words have been added in 27 Amendments. But according to iNK author Cynthia and her husband, Sandford Levinson, authors of 271 page book for the YA audience, Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws that Affect Us Today, following our Constitution, as it is written, has its problems. These are not unlike the work that a playwright has to do on a script after the actors start reading it. The questions about such texts are: What works and what doesn't?
For those who don't know much about the Constitution, it is defined by the Levinsons as "an agreement that describes how an organization is governed. It is different from a collections of laws. The purpose of a constitution is to determine who makes the laws, how those decision makers are chosen, how long they serve, and what powers they have......it is intended to help a group of people accept leadership and reduce friction. That's the idea at any rate."
Each chapter starts with an incident or event that conflicts with or has no obvious resolution within the Constitution as it is written. Outlining the problem and its resolution requires the attention of the reader. This is a challenge for its YA audience, and even for adult readers who think they know a thing or two (like me!). The Levinsons have broken down the problem into eight parts beginning with a Preamble (which means "walks before" and a Post-amble (backmatter, including a timeline, notes, etc.). It is a book to guide study in a course on civics. It should be digested bite by bite and be required reading for students who have ambitions for careers in public service in politics, law enforcement, and justice.
The Levinsons chose the words "Fault Lines" for their title because:
"The metaphor of fault lines come from geology and refers to shifting tectonic plates beneath the earth's surface that can cause rumbles ranging from mild vibrations to catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis. Architects safe-guard residents in these zones by construction buildings that can withstand shaking.
"But what if you lived in a building that got a C on an earthquake safety test? Assuming you decided not to move, you'd want your home shored up. That's what we believe the Constitution needs--reinforcement. And it's up to all of us to provide it.."
The book ends with a debate between the authors (who are also husband and wife) who disagree on what we should do next. Both Levinsons do agree that the Constitution needs to be fixed. They each have ideas on how this is to be done.
Their conversation is a model for civil discussion that is supposed to take place on the floors of Congress as well as classrooms around our country.
The updated paperback revision of this book is available now.