Constitute: The World’s Constitutions to Read, Search, and Compare
Constitute provides full text for almost all active constitutions around the globe, making it a powerful teaching tool for government, political history, and civic engagement. Users can easily search documents by time period, geographic region, and topic. Each passage of text in the constitutions is tagged with specific topics like citizenship, suffrage, foregin policy, education access, international law, and amendments, enabling teachers and students to study how different countries have approached political issues, government frameworks, and national ideals.
In addition to being able to search constitutions, Constitute lets users pin and export relevant passages for comparison. For example, students can search how constitutions across the world address “freedom of religion.” Students can view side-by-side text comparisons of two constitutions after clicking the “Compare” button for two results, like France and Liberia. They can also pin the entire search and export all constitutional passages that address freedom of religion for further analysis into a google document, pdf, or csv file. Video tutorials are available for these main project functions of searching, comparing, pinning, and exporting.
The site also provides four lesson plans within the Constitute Teaching Guide for students in grades 5-12. The introductory lesson helps students learn about the importance of constitutions and their purpose. In the lesson on creating an amendment for the US Constitution, students study other constitutions on a proposed change of their choice, like environmental issues and anti-discrimination, and present their proposed amendments at a mock constitutional convention. The lesson on topics challenging governance lets students compare how different countries in the five main world regions address certain issues, like the environment and campaign finance, and propose suggestions for the US through a UN Task Force. Finally, there is a lesson on crafting a constitutional preamble for a hypothetical society, enabling students to consider the goals of countries and how those are reflected in constitutional documents.
One stumbling block that might come up is a lack of historical context. When searching and comparing text, Constitute does not directly provide the dates when amendments were incorporated into constitutions. Students and other users would have to look that information up separately if they want to explore how constitutions changed over time. In the “Chronology” section of the “Data” tab, there is a comparative visualization called “Timeline of Constitutions” of when constitutions were amended, but it does not state which amendments were passed on those dates. On the other hand, another lesson for the classroom could be having students search a topic, such as the abolition of slavery, then conduct additional research to learn when certain countries incorporated that topic into their constitutions based on major historical events.
Overall, Constitute is a great resource for teaching how countries around the world have addressed culture and identities, religion, organization of government, suffrage, civic and social rights, and a myriad of other topics through their constitutions.