Portland Daily Sun: Civic education key to preserving freedom

Original article from the Portland Daily Sun.

February 4, 2013
Robert Libby

Friday morning began with newly elected Independent Senator Angus King addressing students, teachers, judges, and guests in a convocation for the Center of Civic Education "We The People" program competition at the Glickman Library at University of Southern Maine. 

Quoting the concept that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," Senator King compared governmental power to zucchini and the Constitution to a vegamatic designed by the framers to "slice and dice" power to all the stakeholding segments of the society with special recognition to protect the interests of the minority from being steamrolled by the majority. Discussing the Disclosure Act, Senator King offered practical suggestions for informing voters about the influence of money in elections.

Next the students of Matt Sanzone's government class from Marshwood High School competed against the students of Ms. Eldridge's class from Noble High School in model legislative hearings as experts on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Each team was evaluated by a panel of constitutional theory experts scoring six units of challenging questions requiring in depth presentations and immediate response without notes to penetrating follow up questions on the fine points of their prepared remarks and the issues at hand. The students displayed knowledge of the principles of our constitutional government, how it was created, and how it has evolved. The process demands a strong grasp of historical precedents and thorough awareness of the current issues that confront our nation. Inalienable rights, limited government, contributions of different branches of government, the Magna Carta, Articles of Confederation, immigration, habeas corpus, citizenship, and privacy were all examined, Supreme Court decisions cited, and checks and balances theorized. 

For 25 years now Maine high school students have engaged in this process and gone on to represent Maine at the national competition in Washington, D.C.. Scores of former student participants have gone on to careers in politics, teaching and law, and thousands of alumni cite this experience as the beginning of their dedication to the Rule of Law and our governmental principles.

Having dedicated themselves to this rigorous process, the students have acquired understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and civic virtue. They have gained a grasp of the intricate process of slicing and dicing power in the pursuit of an equitable society. Some choose to make it their careers.

The sad note is this participation is the exception rather than the rule in our state's civics education. The study materials are outstanding and the learning and performing procedure are long tested and proven successful, even inspiring. Unfortunately given the many demands on the study schedule of high school students in our state today, few schools have shown the diligence to tackle this academic challenge. Being a good citizen is demanding work, and as Thomas Jefferson expressed at the forming of this nation, the best and most secure place to entrust the future of this nation rests with its citizens and to prepare them with skills to protect that trust, it is the responsibility of the nation to educate the public with the skills of citizenship. The evidence is clear and tested that the We The People program is an excellent curriculum for the education of well informed and active citizenry. If all Maine high schools participated in this program, it would provide the skills necessary for future civic accomplishment.

You can read the original article here.

February 7, 2013
In: Civic Learning in the News

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