Viewing the Constitution as a Living Document

by Anna Gross

The Constitution was written more than 

230 years ago—maybe it’s time for updates.

Thomas Jefferson said himself that the Constitution of the United States should be rewritten every 19 years to better reflect a more modernized society. During the 235 years since the Constitution was written, only 27 amendments have been made, the last one being 30 years ago. With a changing world that’s come a long way since 1787, it would be smart to heed our founding father’s advice. Many American citizens have raised the question of why it’s important to treat the Constitution as a living document. But what does the phrase “living document” even mean? According to the University of Chicago School of Law, “a living Constitution is one that evolves, changes over time, and adapts to new circumstances, without being formally amended.”

An article from NPR  in May 2022 found that compared to all high-income countries in the world, the United States is the worst at protecting its children from gun violence. One of the main arguments lawmakers use to prevent gun control measures is the second amendment which poses the question: are some amendments still as relevant to today’s society? During the time when the Constitution was written, guns were nowhere near as powerful as the ones we have today. 

The technology we have in 2022, such as phones, cars, and guns wouldn’t be imaginable by the men writing our Constitution. If the main reason laws aren’t being passed to stop the killings of many Americans is based on an amendment written hundreds of years ago, it would be advisable to start changing our mindsets.

The Constitution was written by those who held power in the late 1700s, and they wrote it influenced by the time period they were in. Not included in the document were the rights of everyone who was not a wealthy male landowner. Our government and its citizens’ views about the world have adapted to welcome much more diversity and inclusion. By looking at the Constitution strictly the way those writing it did, we are further ignoring many minority groups that make up a large percentage of America’s population.

It’s also difficult to come to a consensus on how to look at the Constitution, as our country is divided in its views. A portion of the population claims that the Constitution should be observed as it was written, while the other side believes it should be viewed with a more modern approach. Another challenge is the difficult process of making changes to the Constitution. Many amendments in the Constitution are incredibly broad, so it is almost impossible to decipher what to change if that was undergoing consideration.

It’s important to view the Constitution as a guide for how our government should be run, but to remember that it is a historical document written in a completely different time period than the one we are in now. Following every single rule exactly how it is stated is an unrealistic expectation and sets our country up for failure. It’s our job to speak up and call our lawmakers to action so that they can have an open mind when voting on laws that decide the future of our country!

About Anna Gross

Anna Gross is a Sophomore in the Pre-IB program at Richwoods High School. She is involved in Student Council, Student Leadership Team, speech, tennis, and Spanish Club. Outside of school she loves to travel, bake, and perform as a singer, dancer, and actress!

Art by Qaasaani Little

Qaasaani Little is a freshman at Richwoods High School. Little is a member of Student Leadership Team and Student Council. She has loved art for as long as she can remember, including painting and drawing. Little’s artwork is for sale. She also loves animals, after school activities, and is inspired by her mom for always pushing her to do my best.