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Omnibus | 3 Minutes

Omnibus, Roe, and the Importance of Words and History

Written by Ty Fischer
Omnibus, Roe, and the Importance of Words and History

Recently, I got the opportunity to share the news of the overturning of Roe v. Wade with a number of friends. These friends have all been involved in the Pro-Life movement for years. (I actually received a 0 on a final because I went to the March for Life in Washington DC as a freshman in high school.) Since that moment, I have been listening to the news and some podcasts that have been dominated by talk about this historical event. I watch all of the stations—conservative and progressive—so I can see how both sides are reacting. I have also been learning about what is in Samuel Alito’s majority opinion and Stephen Breyer’s dissenting opinion. Abortion is deeply divisive in our culture. Listening to different stations and delving into the opinions makes it clear why we are so divided. We are reading the Constitution differently and looking at history very differently.

As we train students, these two skills: reading and contextualizing history are necessary for a well-functioning society. We need to make sure that we take opportunities to help our students differentiate the types of thinking and arguments that are being made in our culture. The abortion issue and the current opinions make for a great discussion and training ground for these skills.

The first area of disagreement is how to read the Constitution. Justice Alito’s opinion was crystal clear. He is basically saying, “Abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, therefore it can not be a Constitutional right.” He is reading the Constitution carefully and precisely.

The progressives, represented by Justice Breyer’s dissent, answer by citing history and stare decisis. This term means that courts are to stand by precedent or past decisions. Of course, this makes sense. If the courts decided one way and then changed their decision based on a new case next week, people would not know how to live. So, the progressives, who tend to be the group that overthrows precedent, are arguing that history should trump words or the lack of words.

Alito whacks this argument by going back through American history and British Common Law to show that abortion is not a regular part of the historical traditions of America.

Clearly, these two groups are looking at the world and the inhabitant of the womb very differently.

As Omnibus students live in this world, they should be trained to look at and access arguments. Thankfully, Omnibus reading should be good training for analyzing arguments and history. It helps students sharpen these skills by pausing when they come to arguments and taking the time to help the students analyze these ideas. Here are some areas and issues that have worked well in my classes:

The Bible is replete with good things to argue about. Here are a few:

  • The quandary of the Hebrew midwives who were ordered to kill male children seem to be lying and God seems to be blessing them for lying.

  • Is it really Samuel who is conquered by the Witch of Endor?

  • Arguing for and against infant baptism based on the Scriptures.

  • Theology: Pausing to make sure that students see arguments like those between Luther and Erasmus concerning the freedom of or bondage of the will.

  • They are taking time to how people use the documents like the Constitution and the Declaration, to analyze issues in American history like slavery, Civil Rights, or whether America has the right to proclaim and enforce the Monroe Doctrine.

Words and history are so important. We can’t know ourselves without them. God has revealed himself through words and in history. As classical educators, we should take time to work with our students and to sharpen these skills so that they can be leaders in their generation.