Leading Up to We the People

Brianna Skaff, Editor

On Monday, December 17, the AP Government students will be partaking in a competition against other towns and classmates which will be counted as their midterm exam. What it is known as is “We the People,” the beginning words of the Constitution. According to Government and Civics teacher, John Garrish, “[it] is a competition that requires students of government to study particular questions that challenge their understanding of big topics such as the goals of government, the principles of democracy, and the laws that limit our democracy. We compete with other schools and students are assessed based on how they feel they know the material and the variety of topics they can talk about relating to it.”

What are students responsible for in order to do well? Students are grouped with students from other AP Government classes, groups consist of 4-5 people, and are given an assigned unit. This year, there are six different units that students will be assigned to. Based on their assigned unit, students are given a list of three essay questions with sub-questions to answer. The group then must write three different essays answering all of the questions, based on a fact sheet that should be completed beforehand. After the initial writing process, students go through “pretrial hearings” where they recite a selected essay to a panel of teachers and will receive feedback in order to advance their essays. After the finalization of their essay, students are then expected to memorize all three essays for the actual day. There are two of these meetings before the big day approaches, and it arrives quickly.

At the actual We the People trials, students go before a panel of judges while surrounded by other students. During the groups trial, the judges will pick one of the three essays prepared by the students and they must go from there, it is blind-sided, so the students have no idea which essay will be picked. The students are required to recite their essay to the panel under 4 minutes, but still speaking concisely and clearly. After the essay, all forms of notes must be put away, and the questions start rolling in. During this time, the judges have approximately six minutes to ask the students questions relating to their overarching topic. The questions range from facts that directly correspond to the topic, to questions arguing against the student’s main point, to questions about real-world situations. Although it is a long process to get ready for the day, a group really only spends about 20 minutes in front of the panel of judges, but about 7 hours at the actual event.

As the event gets closer, students are becoming more and more nervous for the occasion but they are happy for one thing, that this assignment is technically their midterm. According to junior, Aparajita Sarkar, “it’s better than the midterm because you would have to remember content from the beginning of the year until now but the We the People is literally just knowledge of the three topics that you are given to study extensively.”

Throughout all the student’s stress, the Government teachers and advisers try to keep students staying positive. When asked about how he believes the students will do, Garrish responded with  “Amazing, the students are going to do phenomenally, I’m blown away by the level of success that the students have picked up on. When it comes time to study for the AP exams, they are going be able to use that knowledge of what we learned in class, and it’s great practice for college-level material.”

As a final comment, Garrish wanted to add that himself, Mr. D’Amato, and all of the other advisers are very proud of their students and can’t wait to see them during the event.