Laurel’s We the People team heading to Nationals in DC
Once again Laurel students have proven their academic acumen. Under the direction of their civics teacher Lee Deming, the Laurel classes became the state-wide champions in the We the People competition in Helena this week. The students had to prove their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution in a debate-style forum. They out debated all others with their grasp on the history, philosophy and application of the Constitution to become the state champs.
Now comes the hard work of raising the funds needed to take the trip. The cost is substantial so expect to see a number of upcoming fundraisers from the group.
After last year’s showing in Helena, Mr. Deming stated that in his 37 years as a high school teacher in Montana, he has never come across a better program for instilling the virtue of patriotism and the value of adherence to the rule of law through limited government than this program.
The We the People program is a nationwide competition sponsored by the Center for Civic Education. Finals are usually conducted by congressional district, but since Montana has only one, schools compete in a single state final. The first place finisher then competes at the national level against teams from across the U.S. Laurel has a long history in the We the People competition: LHS has sent teams to the state finals for at least 16 years and won the competition in both 2012 and 2015. In 2016, the teams finished third but went to Nationals when the top two teams opted out.
Students spend a semester studying the contents of the We the People textbook. Classes are split into six teams that study units covering the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system, how the Constitution was created, how it has changed to further the ideas in the Declaration of Independence, how the values and principles of the Constitution have shaped American institutions and practices, what rights the Bill of Rights protects and the challenges American constitutional democracy faces in the 21st century.
“The last unit is important,” said Deming. “It asks students ‘How do people get involved with their government?’ That’s an important question to ask.” Over a semester, classes take tests on the information and defend their unit in front of their classmates in preparation for the state finals. “There’s also quite a bit of discussion,” added Deming.
We the People provides questions for each unit that students interpret and defend at the competition. Students come with a four to six minute prepared speech in answer to three of the posed questions. Afterwards students’ participate in an open question period from three judges on their topic.