We the People: These people knew a lot
Around 300 area middle school students learned what it could be like to speak on a legislative floor during We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution in the Doermer Family Center for Health Science Education Friday, Nov. 11.
We the People, a civics program for elementary, middle and high school students, brings students together in a staged scene in which they speak as expert witnesses before a Congressional sub-committee on various questions related to the U.S. Constitution. At USF, panels of area judges, legislators and business people heard four-minute presentations by students, and then conducted six-minute question periods with the students before giving them feedback on their speaking skills and knowledge of the Constitution.
Woodside Middle School teacher Frank Letizia encouraged his students before their presentation to Allen County Judge Pro Tem Eve Scott, businessman Richard B. Duke and Indiana Senate President David Long. “You get to be judged by a top senator in the state,” he told the five boys. “Show your conviction!”
“Today is Veterans Day, and what better day to celebrate We the People than today, which remembers the servicemen who sacrifice so much for us,” Scott said before questioning the students about the emergence of U.S. political parties and the usefulness of parties today.
Woodside’s Josh Ehlert said the U.S. founders feared political parties because of possible factions and deference to special groups. “That’s why parties are not mentioned in the Constitution,” he said.
“If we had one party today, would that be a problem—why or why not?” Long asked the students. “More parties would be better, because more of the people would be represented and it would be harder for one party to take over,” Kolin Behrens said.
The adult panelists praised the students. “I am impressed with your understanding and willingness to participate. You expressed yourselves well on complex issues. I am impressed with your preparation,” Duke said.
Behrens said his group prepared in class for six weeks before making the presentation. “We’re interested because of what is going on currently and we want to know why gridlock is happening,” Behrens said.
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