We the People Update

Editor’s note: AP US History classes participated in the We the People program from April 26-30 at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. The following is an update from history teacher and trip leader Peter Gunn.

What a great start!  Despite some travel and other sequester-related challenges on Friday, we did tour the Supreme Court and the King, FDR, and Jefferson Memorials – many inspiring moments.  For me, the highlight was viewing the actual letter between Clarence Earl Gideon and the Clerk of the Supreme Court.  While many believe that “due process” is the bedrock of civil liberty, Mr. Gideon’s struggle shows me that a deep and persistent belief in your own rights is the vital element in civil society.

On Saturday, the students gave wonderful presentations – well-reasoned, substantially documented and eloquently expressed.  They responded to follow-ups with amazing applications of their learning to new questions.  Here are some of the questions posed by the judges (who included an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and law professors):

–         Explain how classical republicanism and natural rights philosophy inform the federal system of government.
–         Why was there no Bill of Rights under the Articles of Confederation
–         Talk about the Emancipation proclamation

On Sunday, the students gave another round of extraordinary performances — surpassing their eloquence and insight from the first round.  While we did not secure a place in the final round of the top 10 schools, I am confident that they impressed the judges.  Indeed, I think they impressed themselves!  Dave Koritkoski, Diane Williams and I shared with them our great respect for what they accomplished this year.  Moreover, we shared our great pride in being associated with them.  All of the Williston family should join in our celebration of these great young scholars.

Peter T. Gunn
History, Government and Economics
The Williston Northampton School

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