St. Charles wins county ‘We the People’ competition
Event tests students’ knowledge, understanding of government, civic engagement
Displaying their knowledge and opinions on government and civ- ic responsibility, St. Charles High School students won the first ever Charles County “We the People” competition.
“I’m very proud of them; they worked very hard,” said Michael Colatruglio, St. Charles govern- ment teacher and coach for the school’s team. “We used five or six class periods for this, and they’ve been really exceptional to work with from Day One. They made my job ver y easy.”
“We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” is a yearly competition program sponsored by the Center for Civic Education, involving high school teams from throughout the United States.
The competition tests high school students’ knowledge and understanding of the U.S. Consti- tution, the Bill of Rights, govern- ment structure and government issues.
Colatruglio said his students worked hard to prepare for the competition.
“Rather than just learn from a textbook, students do extensive preparation on a topic, and then prepare their statements for a simulated congressional hearing,”
Teams from St. Charles, Hen- ry E. Lackey, Thomas Stone and Westlake high schools took part in the event Wednesday, which was hosted at the James E. Richmond Science Center at St. Charles.
Westlake finished second in the overall competition, and Thomas Stone finished third.
Marcie Taylor-Thoma, Mary- land state coordinator for the program and one of the panel of three judges, said the scores were all ver y close.
“That’s a testament to how well the teachers prepared their students,” Taylor-Thoma said.
The competition is held in the style of a mock U.S. Congres- sional hearing before a panel of three judges.
Each team, comprised of three to six students, was provided with a question ahead of time and had three minutes to give a presentation on their answer, which included topics such as whether there was any Constitutional expectation of privacy on the internet, how far the right to peaceably assemble should extend, the advantages and disadvantages of presiden- tial versus parliamentary style government, and how far state and federal laws should be al- lowed to preempt tribal law on Native American reser vations.
Following the students’ re- sponses, the panel of three judges asked follow-up questions, which required students to back up their responses and look at different aspects of the question.
Retired federal judge Can- dida Steel, one of the judges, commended all of the students for the hard work and dedica- tion they displayed during the five-hour competition.
“Congratulations to all of you; not just the winners here today, but every one of you for learning about and thinking about the ideas and institutions underlying our government, and what our responsibilities are as citizens to protect the remarkable gift left to us by our Founding Fathers,” Steel said. “I hope you will think about how you can use what you have learned to help your families, your schools and your communities in the future.”
Taylor-Thoma said the teach- er coaches for each team com- plete a week of professional de- velopment during the summer at the James Madison Institute in Virginia.
“They take their information, their professional knowledge, and they take the curriculum, which is all based on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, align it with their curriculum, and then teach it to the kids,” Taylor-Thoma said.
With its win, the St. Charles team has also won the right to move on to the Maryland “We the People” competition, being held Jan. 5.
“There will be some preparation work over Christmas break that we’ll have to do,” Colatruglio said.
The winner of the state championship and a “wild card” team will progress to the national, three-day “We the People” competition, held in Washington, D.C., the third week of April.