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Why do Americans get the Constitution so wrong?

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Other studies have also shown that most Americans know very little about the Constitution. In a public opinion poll conducted for the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, nearly half the respondents believed that the Constitution contains Karl Marx’s phrase “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

American ignorance

I witnessed this lack of understanding recently when I was standing in line at a movie house behind a woman who objected to the theater’s policy of searching purses and backpacks. She indignantly told a theater employee that her purse could not be inspected, citing the Fourth Amendment’s protection against illegal searches.

She did not know that, in general, the Fourth Amendment does not apply to private businesses – only to governments. The movie theater has a right to require a bag search; she has the right to take her business elsewhere.

Her mistake is forgivable when you consider that even President Obama cannot get it right. During his first State of the Union address, Mr. Obama said, “...we find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we’re all created equal.”

Those words are good ones, and they are in the Declaration of Independence.

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