Keeping the Spirit of the Constitution Alive

Rob Peck teaches advanced placement U.S. government class at Douglas Freeman. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Rob Peck teaches advanced placement U.S. government class at Douglas Freeman. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Kudos to two Richmond-area schools — the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School and Douglas S. Freeman High School — for their superb performance at this year’s annual We the People competition. Fifty-six teams that made it through districts and regionals competed in the nationals. Maggie Walker, a perennial powerhouse, scored 2nd while upstart Freeman scored 3rd. Grant High School from Oregon came in 1st.

Four-student teams get a multi-faceted topic relating to the U.S. Constitution that could range from the Dred Scott case to the Magna Carta. After having time for research and analysis, they sit across from three judges who engage in a lively Q&A.

Students spent hundreds of hours prepping for the event. As one participant, Carson Whitehurst, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Read a lot. Specifically, the Constitution, court cases, the Federalist and anti-Federalist papers, and anything we could find from scholars or anything related to our question.”

As late-night show comedians frequently remind us with their laughably sad man-on-the-street interviews, civic ignorance is rampant in the United States. It is reassuring to see that in the state whose leading citizens articulated key Constitutional principles more than 200 years ago — James Madison, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson — at least at least a few young people are learning the philosophical underpinnings of our system of governance.


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  1. virginiagal2 Avatar

    I was kind of sad to see this not getting any comments, so I thought I’d leave one.

    The class that I took that had the greatest effect on my thinking – on how I see the world – was actually two classes, Constitutional Law I and II at UVA. Those were upper level graduate/undergraduate courses, offered in what was then the government and foreign affairs department, taught by the awesome Henry Abraham.

    The classes were not remotely related to my career, but they enriched my life. I can’t overstate the profound effect they had on my thinking and my appreciation of our system of government.

    It alarms me to see articles like a recent one suggesting abolishing the role of the Supreme Court (over at Slate) – arguably the stupidest suggestion I have seen in years, but worse, how do graduates from top schools manage to have such poor understanding of American history and government?

    Thanks Jim for highlighting this competition. Good to see some kids learning in depth about the Constitution!

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