Gordon in the News: last updated 10/24/2008

American Politics Goes to Class

September 16, 2008

Jo Kadlecek
Office of College Communications

WENHAM, MA-On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine men signed the U.S. Constitution and forever changed the direction of the nation. On Wednesday, September 17, 2008, thirty-two Gordon College students will read the document out loud--every word of it--as they gather for POL104 class, American National Politics.
Because Wednesday is formally U.S. Constitution Day, students around the country will likely be studying the content and context of the formative work. But Gordon Associate Professor of Political Studies and Ipswich resident, Dr. Paul Brink, says he'd hold the oral reading in his class anyway, even if the day wasn't marked as a holiday.
"My main goal is for students to know the Constitution, and to have read and heard it with some care at least once," Brink said.  "Both the right and the left see it as the bedrock of American politics and both also appeal to it again and again. So students need to have more than a passing acquaintance with it."
Hearing the document out loud, though, isn't always easy. It can raise many questions and issues for political studies students who, like many citizens, know only passing references to the Constitution. As a result, Brink calls the oral reading, "a great discussion-starter. It leads us to ask questions like, 'Should we read the Bill of Rights? Should these amendments be considered part of the Constitution?  Would you have signed the Constitution without the Bill of Rights?"
Brink said his students also wrestle over the phrase in Article 1, the famous "three fifths of other persons" description, which was included for both determining a state's number of representatives and for taxation purpose--identifying slaves as only 3/5 of a human being.  
"That's a hard question for our global students today," Brink said. "And more comparative questions emerge as well: the UK doesn't have a written constitution, at least not in a single document, and yet the country apparently is a healthy democracy. So how important is this thing anyway?"
Many of these questions, Brink said, will eventually be discussed in his class throughout the semester, but not on Wednesday. He won't allow them to interrupt the reading on September 17th. Instead, thirty-two students will hear it in one sitting, and hear it in their own voices.
To request an interview or for additional information on please contact the Office of College Communications at Gordon College at 978.867.4752.


Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.