St. Charles wins county ‘We the Peo­ple’ com­pe­ti­tion

Event tests stu­dents’ knowl­edge, un­der­stand­ing of gov­ern­ment, civic en­gage­ment

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

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,”

Co­la­truglio said.

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.

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