Monday, April 17, 2006

Fact checking? What's that...

So, it would appear that it's not just the New York Times that can't get their facts straight in a story. I present to you, assuming you can get in to read it, the story of one Dan-el Padilla. Now, the tale of Dan-el is both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking, as it pertains to the subject of illegal immigration, and how some illegal immigrant children strive to make a better life for themselves. But that's not what I'm here for. What I'm here for today is a line in the 4th paragraph of this story that has made me especially cranky.

While his case is exceptional, Mr. Padilla's predicament reflects the cacophony of messages a conflicted nation sends to illegal immigrants. This spring, at least 65,000 undocumented immigrant students, many of whom have been in this country most of their lives, will graduate from high school. The Constitution guarantees a public-school K-12 education for every child in the U.S.

The bold is my emphasis. Now, read that again, and then go look up the text of the US Constitution, and amendments, and please, gentle reader, tell me where it says anything about that.

This is what burns me about the media, especially the giants such as the WSJ, NYT, and others, because of the scope of their audience. When you have access to as many potential readers/viewers as the giant media outlets do, then you have the potential to warp absolute fiction into what will be believed to be fact with the mere stroke of the pen.

Thoughts? Angry corrections? Clever songs? Post away...


Laddi said...

Journalist ethics
All that's fit to print. Check source
Who are you kidding

patsbrother said...

While I refrain from directly addressing the validity of that particular statement, the Constitution has been held to guarantee any number of things not explicitly enumerated within the Constitution itself.

It is entirely possible the Constitution has been held to guarantee children access to public grade school (I lack the time to research this question in full): I'm sure this is why there are at least 100 schools in Alaska with only three teachers or less, and why I have read stories about a public school in one of the less populous states (Montana?) with one teacher and one pupil. Granted, the Congress may have mandated this instead; however, if there is a constitutional protection of first-trimester abortions premised on the constitutional guarantee of privicy (neither of which, I hear, the Constitution mentions), it is entirely possible there is a constitutional guarantee of a public education.
(disclaimer: here I be using general knowledge)

I would think it would be hard for the federal government to require the states to make available public education to all children, regardless of legal standing (as I have been told it does), without some constitutional backing. So too, the mere existence of Brown v. Board of Education suggests simply not educating some population was (thankfully) not an option.

If you are upset merely because the article said the Constitution guarantees something it does not explicitly mention, I suggest you read less lest you upset yourself. The Constitution stands for more than what it says. If I knew the statement to be erroneous, I might be just as annoyed as you appear to be. Had the article said "The Constitution says..." I would be just as annoyed as you. But it doesn't. Be cool.

Patrick Armstrong said...

While law school can't come up with the answer, the Internet can.

The Constitution does not explicitly guarantee a right to free education. It allows that such a right, when made into law by the legislative branches of the nation or the several states, may not be deprived without due process. (The 14th Amendment again, my tied-for-first-place favorite amendment)

I found this question quite interesting, so I searched on it for a few minutes at work. There cannot be a specific Constitutional guarantee because Rep. Jessie Jackson Jr. is proposing a Contititutional Amendment to do just this.

So I went where even first year law students dare to tread: history. What's the most important education case ever decided before SCOTUS? That's right Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka. I do suggest everyone take a few minutes and actually read what this decision says.

I followed some refrences to Cubberly's "History of Public Education" and came up with this which is informative but not what I was looking for.

Back to the drawing board.

I hit Pierce vs Society of Sisters. Again, a good read (man I wish we still had people that spoke or wrote with such skill) but still not my answer.

But I had noticed many, many 14th Amendment refrences. I rephrased the Google search to "14th Amendment Education" and boom. While you will be tempted to do an immediate search for Plyer vs Texas, you will want to scroll just a moment for the actual link.

San Antonio vs Rodriguez (1973). This case is huge and kind of complex. Read this when you have time. Buried waaay down at the bottom is SCOTUS's response to the district court. The district court had found that education (like speech, religion et al) was a fundamental right.

Spoketh the Supreme Court of the United States of America: "We have carefully considered each of the arguments supportive of the District Court's finding that education is a fundamental right or liberty and have found those arguments unpersuasive."

You'll want to read the whole thing, like I said, when you have some time. You will see that this statement is not taken out of context, but was very deliberately phrased to say exactly that. The arguments of the District Court required it.

Now back to work.

S.A.W.B. said...

Thank you, Pat, for the research. Ladies and germs, the resulting decision in the Plyler v Doe case is why I continue to be a fairly strict Constitutional constructionalist.

We've been over the immigration issue here a few times, so I won't go on a huge tangential rant, but I think that it is patently ridiculous for the taxpayers of this country to foot the bill for social services for criminals.

There, I said it. And I maintain that my original argument was correct. There is no specific language in the Constitution, or the amendments, guaranteeing free education. There is, however, Constitutional interpretation that free education is guaranteed for citizens and criminals.

dadvocate said...

Here's another post about media not getting the facts right. Nuggets of Death (Ed Cone via Instapundit). Humorous but it makes you wonder if they check anything out.

Patrick Armstrong said...

You're welcome for the research. Glad to know us masses have just as much, if not more, access to law than L1's. It did not escape my notice that the Rodrigez and Plyer cases both dealt with the status of illegals back in The Time Before I Was Born.

As to there being a "Constitutional interpretation that free education is guaranteed for citizens and criminals," keep in mind that isn't exactly it, either.

The 14th Amendment is a pretty strongly worded guarantee of due process before any liberty, rights and property is revoked.

In the Pierce case, SCOTUS seemed to liken (I just scanned the decision) education to property. Since the Pierce decision was refrenced in the (exrtemely comprehensive) Rodrigez decision, I took that into consideration.

Most education law is legislated at the state level. If the several states legislate that education be free and public, then (and only then) does the 14th Amendment, in fact, guarantee a right not to be deprived of that free and public education without due process of law.

It would seem to me that problem exists in the state legislatures, not in the Constitution (written or interpreted). To me it seems pretty cut and dry.

The problem with the media not checking their own facts is a big one. That puts the onus on us to keep them straight. Just like I don't blame illegals for coming here for the chance at a better life, I don't blame the media for being so awful. Why not? It is us, the people, who have to demand better. In the absence of better, we have to make our own. But, as we've seen here today, our resident legal expert didn't have the time or interest to answer a relatively simple question succinctly (even though he spoke about it at length).

When people have other priorities, they let stuff slide.

Patrick Armstrong said...

What I liked about the Nuggets of Death:

I love how an absolutely true statement (transfats could make Goldfish crunchy) can be used so incorrectly by folks who get paid to do this for a living (Goldfish doesn't use transfats for crunch anymore).

Maybe the author lacked the time to research the question in full and find a real example of some cracker that uses transfat. Why pick on Goldfish? Did Ritz crackers not fall under this same rigorous scrutiny?

petallic said...

Wait, hold up. Am I to gather that some of you would DENY education to undocumented children if given the chance? Or am I just reading daggers where there are none?

Just in case I have read correctly, allow me to go ahead and state, emphatically and without question, you guys can suck my big toe. The bottom line is this: children who want to go to school aren't criminals. They shouldn't be punished for laws and decisions they're not even old enough to understand. NOT EDUCATING children would be criminal.

America is not a country that profiles in this way. Children are children, and in my eyes, have no nationality. They are all citizens by birth of a sacrosanct nation called Childhood. The color of their skin is irrelevant, as is the country of birth of their parents. Teachers are called to act "in loco parentis" for all children, not just the ones with proper documentation. Acting in place of the parent forbids me from the luxury of exclusion.

I am shocked that you guys would suggest something so unclean. I hope for the sake of your souls and consciences that I misread or misinterpreted. Please tell me I misinterpreted out of exhaustion or sheer stupidity.

Patrick Armstrong said...

First of all, I'm only pointing out the case law, and interpreting what that law states.

By my estimation, State Legislatures could write laws to the effect of what you are speaking.

They would be challenged to the United States Supreme Court and probably overturned based off the 14th Amendment under the 'due process clause.' (Which is, what I believe, happened in the Plyer case, but that is just from a cursory once over.)

What I am saying is that, when I looked at the research, there is no fundamental right to free and public education written into the Constitution as of this minute right now. (That was the original question which I researched)

And what I am saying isn't really what I am saying at all, but stuff that was said by the Supreme Court of the United States of America back in the day.

As far as undocumented children (the SCOTUS sounds like it is saying), they can be denied education only if their parents are prosecuted, and through due process of law, convicted of being here illegally and therefore requiring expulsion from the United States.

If those are daggers, they aren't my daggers.

Coastal Companion said...

Let's face it...the "media" and the other "usual suspects" i.e. the bleeding hearts (notice I avoid saying leftists or liberals here) dream up yet another constitutional "right"--every other day of every other other month of every other year.

The "right" to earn a "living wage" for people that can't speak the King's English and that drop out of high school to raise their three illegit kids, gay marriage "rights",the "right" to purchase cheep gasoline, the "right" to live in a flood plain without insurance and be made whole with government taxpayer dollars when disaster strikes, and the coming "right" to a free college education...

nowhere in the US Constitution do I see any of these words written behind the words LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS...

It just ain't there as far as I know.

petallic said...

"They can be denied education only if their parents are prosecuted, and through due process of law, convicted of being here illegally and therefore requiring expulsion from the United States."

This is a horse of an entirely different color; one which makes absolute sense. Thank you, Pat, for the clarification.

Patrick Armstrong said...

CC: Thanks for tuning in (and making the distinction between bleeding hearts & other liberals).

I totally agree that there are too many instances where people believe they are guaranteed rights that they do not, in fact, have. Part of this comes from the media and punditry saying that people are guaranteed certain rights (like the WSJ article that started this thread) that they aren't actually guaranteed, the other is that we do live in America, and really have more freedoms (and take them for granted) than we sometimes know what to do with. (That is, I think, bad and good.)

Many of the examples you point to are products not of the Constitution or resulting SCOTUS decisions, but by legislation. Legislation can grant additional rights to the ones we already have, but without Constitutional protection, they are static as opposed to inalienable; they can be changed the next time the legislature changes them. Wage laws, marriage licensure, insurance laws all fall under this category.

Pettalic: Glad I could clear that up for you.

patsbrother said...

Out of general disdain for the line of thought herein involved, I restrict myself to this:

There is, currently, no King's English. And as to the Queen's English, we don't speak it.

Anonymous said...

If one wishes to discuss or debate the US Constitution it would be a good idea to have an easy to search, handy and accurate copy of the document. There's one available at


petallic said...

"There is, currently, no King's English. And as to the Queen's English, we don't speak it."


patsbrother said...

Huffing about imaginary rights not explicitly contained within the Constitution, Coastal Companion, a strict constructionalist, made this apt observation:

"nowhere in the US Constitution do I see any of these words written behind the words LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS..."

So very true. Nor any other words. As that phrase does not itself exist within the Constitution.

It does, however, make a rather notable appearance in the Declaration of Independence.

ruby booth said...

Kevin! I love you, surprised though I might be to say it. I simply didn't think anyone else was a big enough English geek to correct that King's/Queen's thing. After all, the lady ain't dead, yet.

On a more relevant note, can anyone recommend a good, readable, detailed, very well-footnoted book on immigration, or immigration reform?