Derrick Bell


The challenge in teaching Constitutional Law is to teach the doctrine while puncturing the myths. It is not an easy task. Americans treat the Constitution as a hallowed document created by men so divinely inspired that the document they produced in 1787 has been amended less than three dozen times. They might add that because of a number of factors, including those amendments, there are now only about 300 operative words in the Constitution, and that most litigation has centered about the meaning of a dozen or so terms: "due process," "cruel and unusual punishment," "commerce," "free exercise," "commander- in-chief," "free speech," and "equal protection." Whether or not intended by the Framers, these phrases have been rendered abstract, inscrutable, and ultimately indeterminate by generations of conflicting judicial interpretation.