Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? Cynthia and Sanford Levinson have written an updated version of their fabulous nonfiction book about the flaws in our constitution. The two new chapters for this edition include information about presidential pardons and presidential hiring and firing. As in the other chapters, the debate is laid out, modern day examples are examined, the original constitutional debate on the topic is examined, and finally the same topic is examined in states, as well as other countries. Both chapters include information about the current administration, especially the chapter on hiring and firing given that President Trump has fired so many people in his administration. It is interesting to read about the constitutional basis for this presidential power, which was hard-won by President Washington in the early years of our country.
The book is updated in other ways to strengthen the authors’ case that our constitution is flawed. In chapter 1, to make a point about the lack of federal anti-lynching legislation due to problems inherent in bicameralism, the authors highlight the 4,384 Black people who were murdered by lynching from 1877 to 1950; the old edition used the time period from 1900 – 1920 during which time 1,249 Black people were murdered. In other places information is updated to reflect new information such as the issues with the 2020 census in chapter 5; the new edition reflects the fact that the Trump administration attempted to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Another significant change is in the penultimate chapter, “Grading the Constitution.” Overall the grade given to our consitution has gone down in the last two years from a C+ to a C for several reasons: threats to national security due to climate change, increased political divisiveness and threats to citizens’ ability to vote.
All in all, this book is SO RICH with information about the debates at the constitutional convention in 1787 and how those debates affect current issues like immigration, gerrymandering, the Electoral College and voting laws. I love the comparisons to laws and processes in other countries. The authors make a strong case that our constitution needs significant amendments to fix many of our nation’s problems. The updated version is even better than the first edition. Must buy for all middle and high school libraries!
To whom would you recommend this book? Students who are interested in better understanding our government.
Anything you didn’t like about it? no
Who should buy this book? All middle school and high school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? YES, if you haven’t already; this updated version is worth your time!
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA
Date reviewed: October 23, 2019