We the People

From April 26 to April 30, I had the privilege of traveling with Greenwich High School’s We the People team to compete at the national finals of the competition in Washington, D.C.

We the People is a civic education program that raises awareness of the foundation of our government and civic responsibility by engaging teams of students in a national competition structured around a set of questions to be answered by students.

The team is divided into units of students comprised of three to five students, each of which is specialized in an individual area of study of the Constitution, ranging from “the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system” to “challenges facing American constitutionalism.”

Each unit then works collaboratively over the span of a few months to craft and polish a written response to one of three main questions pertaining to the specific area the unit focuses on, as well as study their topic in general in preparation for the annual competition at a state level and a national level, which is in the form of congressional hearings.

The hearings are in the style of a congressional hearing, which involves both a prepared response and a free response period. First, each unit reads a four-minute speech replying to one of the three questions, and the judges then have six minutes to question the students about relevant topics.

The scores of individual units are combined to form a team score. To qualify for the national finals, each school must become the state champions, or come in second place in a state selected to receive a wild card entry, as the Greenwich High School team did.

One of the highlights of the program has been the genuine interest of every student in class in the topics that we discuss. Students added hours of extra reading, writing and editing to already packed schedules every week out of pure enthusiasm and a desire to explore the material on a deeper level than is typical of a high school textbook. Covering the entire We the People curriculum, American government and the six countries involved in comparative government by the beginning of May is no easy feat, and each unit had to come to school at 6:40 a.m. once a week to practice for the hearings because there was not sufficient class time.

It’s worth mentioning that waking up to come to school nearly an hour early in the morning may be the greatest sign of dedication from a class of teenagers.

These constitutional scholars-in-training worked tirelessly under the guidance of our coach to analyze Supreme Court rulings, current events, and Federalist papers to support advanced legal and historical arguments and recall evidence at a moment’s notice during questioning.

My classmates’ hard work was rewarded over the weekend when distinguished judges from across the country lauded their ability to apply examples spanning all of American history to difficult constitutional concepts.

While our team did not progress to the final day of competition, which is reserved for the top 10 scoring teams participating, preparing for the We the People competition has endowed my classmates and me with invaluable skills that will serve us both in school and in our careers, thanks to the commitment of the students and mentors involved in the program.

 

Danielle Connolly is a junior at Greenwich High School.

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