Constitutional Knowledge the Focus of We the People National Finals

Jun 07, 2010 / Volume 3, Issue 1

The 2010 National Finals champions from Arcadia, California

The 2010 National Finals champions from Arcadia, California

After three days of being tested on their constitutional knowledge, students from Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California, won the top prize in the 23rd annual We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals held April 24–26 in Washington, D.C.

The classes from Vestavia Hills High School in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, and Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies in Richmond, Virginia, took second and third place in this year’s competition.

More than 1,100 high school students representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands participated in the event. Each of the 52 classes first had to win their state or district competitions to qualify for the national finals. They competed for the first two days of hearings at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

The National Finals are conducted as simulated congressional hearings, during which the students serve as expert witnesses testifying on constitutional issues. This year’s questions included: “Although the First Amendment is expressed in absolute terms, under what circumstances, if any, are limitations on freedom of expression justifiable? Why?”

The classes from Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin had the highest combined scores from the first two days of National Finals. That qualified them to take part in the competition’s final day, held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Geza Baka III, a student from Mt. Carmel School on Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, said that We the People “gave us a better understanding of our constitution and about our system of government.”

Following the National Finals, an awards dinner honoring the participating students was held at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel. Attendees had the opportunity to hear special guest and National Finals judge Mary Beth Tinker speak inspirationally about how children can be a force for positive change. Tinker’s own fight for student free speech had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

Students from Utah, Connecticut, Arizona, Vermont, Washington and Alaska won an award for the highest degree of expertise demonstrated in each unit of the competition by nonfinalist classes. Regional Awards for the best nonfinalist class from each of five geographic areas were won by classes from Nevada (Western States), New Mexico (Mountain/Plain States), Michigan (Central States), North Carolina (Southeastern States), and New York (Northeastern States).

Congressman David R. Obey of Wisconsin received the 2010 Dale E. Kildee Civitas Award for his contributions to the field of civic education. Wisconsin state senator Robert Jauch, who worked as Representative Obey’s chief of staff, accepted the award on his behalf.

The weekend of competition was also witnessed by 52 teachers selected under the We the People scholarship teacher program. Those teachers got firsthand experience of the We the People program’s potential by attending hearings and meeting with mentor teachers, judges and students. They will use their new found knowledge to run We the People implementations at their schools.

We the People is developed and administered by the Center for Civic Education and funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Education for Democracy Act approved by Congress. For more information on We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, contact Robert Leming at leming@civiced.org.

For a complete list of honorees from the National Finals, please click here.

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