Goretti students know their Constitution

December 18, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A group of students from St. Maria Goretti High School will head to Annapolis in February to vie for the state title in the We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution competition.

The annual contest, which pits teams from high schools against each other by testing their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, was held locally Friday at Hagerstown Community College.

St. Maria Goretti edged Clear Spring High School for the right to represent the 6th Congressional District at the state competition.

If the 11-person team from St. Maria Goretti wins in Annapolis, it will advance to the national competition in June in Washington, D.C., said Gene Ebersole, event coordinator for the 6th Congressional District.


"The goal is to get kids involved and to make them better citizens," Ebersole said. "The top teams that come together are phenomenal in their knowledge."

Ebersole said each team was subdivided into six groups, which were given one topic each in advance. After the students made opening statements, judges asked follow-up questions to choose the winners.

Clear Spring sophomore David Bright said he didn't know about the New Jersey and Virginia plans until he started studying for the competition a few months ago.

In a nutshell, the New Jersey Plan, which was the model for the U.S. Senate, gave equal representation to each state regardless of its population. The Virginia Plan, which was the model for the U.S. House of Representatives, supported representation based on population, meaning larger states received more representation than smaller ones.

St. Maria Goretti junior Maria Jones said her team started studying for the competition in August.

She said she disagreed with the Virginia Plan because "smaller states get overlooked."

Jones' classmate, Nicolai Zoretich, disagreed, saying he supported the Virginia Plan.

"To me, it doesn't make sense living in a Democracy to have the minority have more say than the majority," he said.

Jones, Zoretich and St. Maria Goretti juniors Colleen Costello and JR Everett said they planned to include their participation in the competition on their college applications.

Tom Clemens, an HCC professor of history who was a judge for the competition, said the contestants displayed a strong knowledge of the Constitution.

"I think it's very impressive to see young people take the time and energy to prepare for this," he said. "It's gratifying to see the youth take interest."

Washington County Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution competition is one of several programs the system has embraced to make learning more interesting for students.

She said other such programs include a robotics competition and The American History Project.

"We're constantly out there looking for enrichment activities that will totally immerse kids in learning," Morgan said. "It's pretty impressive. If you give them the opportunity, they will exceed your expectations."

Main questions

The six main questions asked during the We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution competition Friday at Hagerstown Community College were:

o What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system?

o How did the framers create the Constitution?

o How has the Constitution been changed to further the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence?

o How have the values and principles embodied in the Constitution shaped American institutions and practices?

o What rights does the Bill of Rights protect?

o What challenges might face American Constitutional Democracy in the 21st century?

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