High School Students Vie for Washington State Title in We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Competition

Seniors from Mt. Rainier High School will be participate along with more than 130 students from 6 high schools to test their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights during the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution State competition beginning at 8:30am on January 11, 2014 at the Capitol Campus (Cherberg, O’Brien and Senate Chambers) in Olympia, Washington. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of the Constitution before a simulated congressional hearing committee consisting of constitutional scholars, lawyers, government leaders, and civic educators who will judge the classes’ performances.

Each class is divided into six groups, corresponding with the units in the We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution text. Each group makes a four-minute presentation, followed by six minutes of questioning by judges probing students on their depth of understanding. Some of the topics they tackle are: what are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system; what rights does the Bill of Rights protect; what challenges might face American constitutional democracy in the 21st century.

Competing schools:

Mt. Rainier High School, Highline School District, Des Moines, Washington
Teacher: Tom Coraggio

Evergreen High School, Evergreen School District, Vancouver, Washington
Teachers: Patti McMaster & John Martin

Peninsula High School, Peninsula School District, Gig Harbor, Washington
Teacher: Tim Knudson

Tahoma High School, Tahoma School District, Covington, Washington
Teacher: Gretchen Wulfing

Heritage High School, Evergreen School District, Vancouver, Washington
Teacher: Darcy Haberl

Lynden High School, Lynden School District, Lynden, Washington
Teacher: Bob Carson

“We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution is the premier academic competition for high school students,” said Kathy Hand, the program’s state coordinator. “These students have logged in early morning, late night, and weekend study sessions to reach the state finals. The judges are always impressed with the students’ thorough knowledge of the Constitution and their ability to apply its principles to contemporary issues.” Judging this year will be Representative Sam Hunt, Retired King County Council member Julia Patterson, King County Council member Dave Upthegrove and many prominent and active members of Washington State Bar Association as well as several Judges including Honorable Thomas Ellington, Honorable Tom Felnagle and Honorable Kitty-Ann van Doorninick.

Implemented nationwide in upper elementary, middle, and high schools, the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution program has reached more than 30 million students and 90,000 teachers since its inception in 1987. Previously funded by the U.S. Department of Education under the Education for Democracy Act approved by Congress and directed by the Center for Civic Education the program now survives on donations and grants from corporations, State of Washington, and private citizens.

A recent survey of program alumni shows that We the People students become active citizens. Ninety-five percent of the respondents voted in the November 2012 election. Additionally, 76 percent voted in all previous elections for which they were eligible, and 56 percent had contacted a government official regarding a public issue during the previous 12 months.

The State winner will proceed on to the National Competition which is in Washington D.C. in the spring. This year the awards at the State Competition will be presented by Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst, Senator Sam Hunt, and King County Council Member Dave Upthegrove.

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