Each year, teams of students and local professionals join together to support how students explore the Constitution with We The People, a program which teaches about the history and principles of the U.S. Constitution.
Recently high school seniors occupied chairs at the Marion County Judicial Center usually reserved for lawyers. Some had note cards and some had printed note sheets spread on the counsel tables. They were ready to discuss the key ideas and values of the U.S. Constitution while classmates watched from the gallery above and judges observed from the bench.
The We The People program was developed in 1987 to reinforce the principles of the Constitution and teach the history of the document. Teams prepared four minute presentations on certain topics, such as the challenges to American democracy in the 21st century and how the Constitution was created. Students are evaluated by employees of the Marion County Public School system, Ocala Police Department, the library system, and county and circuit judges.
Criteria for evaluation includes knowledge of the topic, public speaking, and response to follow up questions at the culimnating event, simulated congressional hearings.
“I learned so much,” said Divya Patel, a Marion Technical Institute student. She said it was unlike anything she had done at school.
One group discussed whether there should be partisan or non-partisan elections. The role of courts in defining rights not established in the Constitution was also discussed by one of the groups.