|Van Wert A.P. Government prepares for annual "We the People" state competition - Thu 01/23/2014 (by Mrs. Baer)|
By McKenna Merkle, Senior Cougar's Roar Editor-in-Chief
Mr. Robert Priest’s Advanced Placement Government class will be competing in the ‘We the People’ competition in Columbus, Ohio on Friday, January 24. This will be the third group from Van Wert Priest travels with to this particular competition, although he has advised 10 groups overall throughout his teaching career.
The students have been preparing for the competition since summer and have not stopped since. Once school started, they were split into six groups and assigned one of six ‘units’ out of their We The People books.
“We The People is an annual competition in which students compete with other schools in their knowledge of historical and contemporary government. The team who receives first place will then compete in Washington D.C. in April at the national convention.
“It is a mock congressional hearing where students take on the role as experts of the constitution in which members of Congress pose three different questions to them,” Priest said.
These questions are given to the students ahead of time so that they may come with a prepared statement which is four minutes in length. The questions are chosen specifically in correlation with each group’s unit.
“After they make their prepared statements, the judges are naturally going to be inquisitive of that statement and want to get a better understanding of it. Or, if they have said something that is in contradiction to their own beliefs, they are going to want to challenge them so that they potentially change their ideas or reaffirm them,” Priest said.
The judges have exactly six minutes to question the students after their statements have been given. They do not know what will be asked of them which is why it is crucial that they know their units better than anyone else. One question is asked in the morning to each group and another is asked in the afternoon.
“The beauty of this competition is the fact that students learn how to take a position on things. It is okay to disagree with people. You can agree to disagree. Hopefully this program will help get them on the right track in forming opinions based upon logic and evidence,” Priest said.
Those who judge the competition are usually attorneys, law professors from different universities, state representatives, state senators, and even some retired teachers who have taught the program. Everyone who judges is very knowledgeable and familiar with the type of legal setting the students will be in. There will be about seven schools there this year which is a low number according to Priest. The past two groups from Van Wert finished state runner-up, falling to Findlay High School both years.
“I took some advice from students last year on a few things we could have done differently and I plan on implementing those things this year. Hopefully we can pull through with the win,” Priest said.
With only one day left until the competition, it is crunch time for the students. They are doing as much as they can to squeeze in that last bit of information so that when they arrive, they feel ready and confident.