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Four Teams to Compete in “We the People” Competition at Missouri State Capitol

High schoolers from across the state will compete in The Missouri Bar sponsored “We the People” statewide competition held at the Missouri State Capitol on Monday, January 26, 2015. Winners of the competition will represent Missouri at the national “We the People” competition held April 25-28, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

The “We the People” competition takes the form of simulated congressional hearings, where students testify as constitutional experts before a panel of judges, acting as a “congressional committee.” The judges, composed of lawyers, judges, educators and political scientists, will evaluate the students’ knowledge and understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Some of the questions posed by the panel of judges will include: “What were the most important differences between the basic ideas of feudalism and the basic ideas that developed out of the Renaissance and the Reformation?” and “What challenges might face American constitutional democracy in the twenty-first century?”

“What makes headlines about civic education is distressing news about how more people know the name of the three stooges than they do the three branches of government,” said Millie Aulbur, director of The Missouri Bar Citizenship Education Program and state coordinator for the “We the People” program. “Civics and government classes that use the ‘We the People’ materials turn out students who cannot only name the three branches of government, they can tell you how they are essential to the limited government the framers of the Constitution envisioned in 1787. They can tell you how a system of separation of powers and checks and balances ideally provide for a government by the people and for the people who are governed. Furthermore, they can intelligently discuss and argue about whether the three branches currently are operating as the framers hoped they would. Every time I hear these young people testify, I get goose bumps and I feel very confident about the future of this country.”

In total, 58 students, representing four high schools, will participate. Schools represented this year include: Center High School from Kansas City, Joplin High School, Nixa High School and Westminster Christian Academy from St. Louis. Westminster Christian Academy and Joplin High School both advanced to nationals in 2014.

More than 2,000 students across the state in Grades 4-12 use the “We the People” materials and participate in local and regional hearings. For example, all ninth graders in Columbia Public Schools participate in hearings as part of a capstone project. Francis Howell High School in St. Charles County has a similar program for its government students.

The “We the People” competition is a creation of the Center for Civic Education aiming to help students understand the history, philosophies and evolution of our constitutional government. The Missouri Bar Citizenship Education Program has served as the state coordinator of the program since 1999. The program was funded by Congress until 2011. Since then, The Missouri Bar Foundation has provided additional funding to continue the program and The Missouri Bar Young Lawyers’ Section contributes $10,000 annually to cover the cost of transportation, lodging and food for the teams that participate in the state finals.

For more information about The Missouri Bar Citizenship Education Program, visit our website at: www.MissouriLawyersHelp.org/educational-resources. To learn more about the “We the People” program, click here.

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