The Krumm family occasionally engages in a little dinnertime entertainment. The last couple weeks the kids have had us play the “telephone game,” wherein one person says something secretly to another, who in turn relays the message to a third, and so on, and so on, until the fifth person announces out loud what he heard, only to be answered by ruckus laughter because the transmitted message bears little resemblance to the original.
When recounting what each said, the individual relayed misquotations are explicable, even logical. However, the compounded effect of misheard words and forgotten phrases, over time results in a completely different message at the end. And because our family includes two boys ages 8 and 11, there is the added surprise resulting from the fact that so many of the re-re-transmitted messages inevitably contain the words “fart” and “poop.”
Via law prof Elizabeth Foley (who, btw, is part of a great cast of Instapundit impersonators) I learned of Jennifer Rubin’s remarks about last weekend’s Peter Berkowitz column expressing surprise that elite law schools do not teach the Federalist Papers as part of their ConLaw curriculum. Rubin asserts that today’s law ”students study precedent” instead of contemporaneous documents, and are therefore shocked when “they encounter constitutional arguments apparently foreign to them but well-rooted in constitutional text, structure and history.”
Studying precedent is all well and good, however, as in the telephone game, it is to be expected that judgments rendered on the fourth or fifth re-transmission end up being garbled versions of the founder’s intent. It might also explain a lot of the poop.