During this election year, candidates have begun throwing around terms like the founding fathers, progressivism and the U.S. Constitution, but how many Americans actually know what they mean and the heritage behind the founding of the supreme law of the United States? Hillsdale College, an academic institution committed to "pursing truth and defending liberty," plans on telling you.
The Michigan-based college is offering a free, online 10-week course beginning Feb. 20. Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution sets out to provide participants with an understanding and ability to defend the "timeless principles of liberty" upon which the nation was founded.
In an interview with The Blaze, Dr. David Bobb -- director of Hillsdale College's Allan P. Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship located in Washington, D.C. -- said the impetus for the course was first and foremost because people had asked for it.
"There are people who love this country but can't explain why," Bobb said. "We want to try and give them that ability."
Bobb explains how the course drives participants to primary source documents, citing that people want "the meat [of the subject], not just the gruel" -- gruel referring to a boiled down interpretation. He also said that the course was designed to not set a political presupposition of its participants.
"We are trying to put before people a choice," Bobb said, noting the choice is between interpreting the Constitution according to that of its original founding or that of progressive values.
U.S. Constitution is a course required of all students attending Hillsdale College, as part of the core curriculum, making it one of only a handful of schools requiring this class. Bobb said Hillsdale, the military academies and a few other institutions require a full semester on the Constitution. If participants of the online course were to take it at the college, Bobb values it as worth about $2,500 in tuition.
In an email about the course, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn wrote that he believes in the current political atmosphere the Constitution is being "ignored", its principles "violated". He writes:
The century-old attack on the Constitution, that continues today, has threatened to undermine our hard-won liberties and is reducing American citizens to subservience to an ever-expanding federal bureaucracy.
Our choice of whether to recover the principles of liberty and limited government under the Constitution will determine if we will remain self-governing citizens or become dependent subjects ruled by unelected bureaucrats.
That's why Hillsdale College is committed to restoring and reviving the public's understanding of the Constitution, once again making it the central focus of American government.
If our republic does not reverse course, we may not be able to reclaim the liberty that has been lost, and we will lose the liberty we still have.
Constitution 101, Bobb said, builds upon a four-course study produced by the college for public consumption in 2011. This program garnered more than 180,000 participants and Bobb said Constitution 101 already has tens of thousands registered.
The course is designed such that a lecture will be posted online on Monday. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions virtually with answers being provided on Wednesday during a Q&A session. In addition to lectures, excerpts from primary documents will be provided and participants will be quizzed on their knowledge.
With George Washington's birthday coming within the next week, Bobb calls to mind the appropriate nature that this course should be launching around that time.
"Without George Washington you may very well not have the Constitution," he said. "You may not have the Constitutional Republic for which the U.S. Constitution now stands."
No credit is provided for this course. Learn more and/or register for the course here. Although the course is offered free of charge, Arnn writes that the class cost nearly $1 million to produce and notes that the college is accepting donations of support.
Full Disclosure: Author Liz Klimas graduated from Hillsdale College in 2009. There she was required, per the college's core curriculum, to take a course on the U.S. Constitution. Read more about her own thoughts on taking Constitution and the course now being offered to the public here.
This article has been updated since its original posting.