Tag: Clint Bolick

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard kick off National School Choice Week with Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick, co-author with Kate Hardiman of a new book, Unshackled: Freeing America’s K–12 Education System. Justice Bolick shares his experiences serving on a state supreme court, and how it has shaped his understanding of America’s legal system. They discuss his new book reviewing the country’s ongoing struggles with the often outdated, command-and-control structure of its K-12 education system and how state lawmakers can best craft legislation to expand flexible, parent-driven educational options. They also talk about the disastrous effects of COVID on student learning, and U.S. schools’ competitive disadvantage relative to international peers. Justice Bolick offers analysis of some of the possible legal, bureaucratic, and educational challenges and opportunities in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Espinoza case, including fewer impediments to school choice at the state level. They also talk about why religion and schooling remain such a third-rail issue in the K-12 system, in contrast to America’s decentralized and choice-driven higher-education model, in which students can access government scholarships and loans regardless of where they attend college or university.

Stories of the Week: With Catholic school enrollment declining across the country, Cara previews some of the key points in Pioneer Institute’s new book (which she co-edited), A Vision of Hope: Catholic Schools in Massachusetts. A number of President Biden’s appointees to the U.S. Department of Education have ties to First Lady Jill Biden, a former educator, or to teachers’ unions. Is a close White House linkage likely to improve results for students, or just continue the status quo.

The Limits of Textualism


In his recent column for Defining Ideas, Clint Bolick, a member of the Arizona State Supreme Court, addresses the central question of modern constitutional jurisprudence: What is the proper way to interpret the Constitution? Bolick, who is also my colleague at the Hoover Institution, casts his lot with the late Justice Antonin Scalia and his many followers who endorse textualism as the one proper method. The argument goes as follows: Textualism—the effort to find the accurate meaning of every word of the relevant provision—helps prevent activist judges from undermining the rule of law by creating new rights under the guise of a “living constitution” on such key issues as abortion, the death penalty, and gay rights, even when there is no basis for such rights in the Constitution or the laws as written.

Bolick’s strict textualist approach is a needed antidote to unduly adventurous constitutional interpretations. But however necessary the careful reading of text is to constitutional deliberation, it is not the full story. Sometimes, the courts must overturn erroneous precedents—and other times, they must, by “necessary implication,” read terms into the Constitution for its prohibitions to make sense. In such cases, the text alone is not a large enough tool-kit to do the job.

Let’s consider an issue that shows both the power and the limits of textualism. The Commerce Clause reads: “Congress shall have power . . . to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” In the 1824 case of Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice John Marshall construed the middle phrase dealing with interstate commerce in harmony with the text’s treatment of commerce with foreign nations and the Indian tribes. His interpretation consciously covered all forms of communication and transportation across state lines, but it also excluded agriculture, manufacturing, and mining, in large measure to ensure, sadly, that slavery was immune to regulation or abolition by Congress.