Truth or Dare?

M. (8) and S. (6) began a game of “Truth or Dare” after church today. Hmm. Fortunately these two are oblivious to the ethos of the pre-adolescent and adolescent version of the game (which those of you who know will remember).

M. and S. were searching for dares they could actually accomplish in the house (really, here in my office) and S. dared M. to read the entire first volume of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion aloud. Neither S. nor M. could imagine my pleasure when, after a short silence later, I heard M. read:

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to day, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. . . . Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and–what is more–depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone.

Then, the next dare from S. was the same dare for my constitutional law text. I picked the portion of the book and M. read the first few paragraphs summarizing Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857) (the link is to the Wikipedia summary):

Mr. Chief Justice Taney delivered the opinion of the Court . . . . Dred Scott, admittedly once a slave but claiming now to be a citizen of Missouri, brought an action for trespass in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Missouri against John F. A. Sandford, a citizen of New York. . . . In 1834 Scott’s former owner had taken him from Missouri to Illinois, where they resided for two years before moving to Minnesota, then part of the Louisiana Territory. In 1838 they returned to Missouri, and Scott was sold as a slave to Sandford. Although slavery was legal in Missouri, it was prohibited in Illinois by the state constitution and in the Louisiana Territory [by the Missouri Compromise enacted by Congress in 1820]. Scott argued that these provisions made him a free man. In response, Sandford contended that even if Scott were free, he was not a citizen of Missouri and that the court therefore lacked jurisdiction under [Article III of the the United States Constitution]. Moreover, Scott was not free since his presence in Illinois and the Territory could not deprive his former owner of his property interest in Scott when he returned to Missouri. . . .

Though M. has long had the technical ability to read these two very different passages, it was somewhat shocking to hear them from her mouth and to know that she now knows enough of herself, the rest of mankind, and our history to apprehend the meaning of both.


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