We The People

After tough competition at Regionals and State, the We The People class is headed to Nationals in Washington D.C. From April 13-15, teams from almost every state will collectively attend and compete against each other.

“Each round of competition is 12 minutes long for each of the six units. Each unit prepares a four-minute presentation/paper to be read to a panel of three prestigious judges,” said We The People teacher Adam Ferguson. “Immediately after the statement is presented, the judges take turns asking the unit any question from the unit content for eight minutes.”

For those who are not aware of the content covered in this course, We The People is a class designated to study the Constitution, the American Republic and above all else, a citizen’s role in the government. There are six different units, with four to six  students in each unit. All six units dive into the vastness of We The People content, including philosophy from Ancient Greeks and Romans, the Articles of Confederation, federalism and more. The material absorbed in this class is nothing short of endless. 

Ferguson and social studies teacher Robbie Pelkey co-teach the class. From being the head of the program for the last eight years, Ferguson has managed to learn a lot about the course work, as well as about his career. “We The People has brought my passion back for teaching. I considered leaving the profession before I started teaching We the People, but this class allows me to challenge myself and the students,” said Feguson. “It also is a class where I can see learning take place and life-long understanding, which will make students better citizens.” 

Along with the impact We The People has made on him, Ferguson has also gained memories along the way. According to him, the most powerful memories he has were made during competitions. “It is so special to see the hard work of the students pay off when they are testifying as experts in front of the panel of judges,” said Ferguson. “I also love how the class creates a community of former students who will still reach out to help the next group of students or randomly contact me to talk about the class and how it has benefitted them since high school.”

For many students, We The People is not the first priority on their schedule; oftentimes math and science-related classes tend to fill up students' schedules. Although subjects such as these are important, a class centered around helping students become educated and engaged students is vital. “We have a civics crisis in our nation today and to combat this, we need knowledgeable citizens who can civilly discuss their ideas and participate in our democratic republic,” said Ferguson.

For Feguson, it is not rare when he hears students say they want their senior year to be easy, and/or they do not have enough room or time in their schedule. “I understand and remember the feeling of senioritis, but I wish students would realize the benefits of taking a class like this outweigh taking an easier class,” said Ferguson. “Just give it a chance.”

As well as civics, Ferguson recognized the importance of classes that focus on other subjects. “I also am a huge supporter of other courses, such as STEM programs, and I want all my WTP students in these classes, too,” said Ferguson. “However, I want these students to understand that civics is important as well and even STEM majors should be aware of what the government can and cannot do, how to participate civically, etc.”

Along with the basic civic education provided from this class are a multitude of English and speech skills that are mastered along the way. “It is a challenging class that teaches skills that will benefit students in the future. Researching, writing, speaking, time management, etc. are all skills learned to be successful,” said Feguson. 

Most importantly, this class offers opportunities that almost no other class does. At competition, students partake in mock trials that ultimately determine a large part of their grade. The art behind this style of assessment prepares students for the unexpected, and teaches them how to critically think on their feet. “We The People is a class that is based on authentic assessment, since you are competing in a mock congressional hearing for your grade,” said Ferguson. “This is unlike traditional formal assessments.”

Altogether, We The People is a class that sticks with students long after high school. The skills absorbed are applicable in all stages of life. This one-semester class provides students with a hefty amount of civic knowledge that most citizens never have the opportunity to take advantage of. 

As the students prepare for their trip, one thing they are doing is raising money to cover their trip. The cost is around $2,000 per student. To help offset the costs, class members are taking advantage of a few opportunities.

There will be  a garage sale and bake sale at PHS in the Auditorium Lobby on Saturday, March 2, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. We The People will not price any items; people can pay what they think each item is worth. All unsold items will be donated to Family Promise or local charities. In addition, there will also be a car wash sometime in early March. 

For those who want to donate to the students, there is a GoFundMe page https://gofund.me/871c2ed2 that is active through February 29. Once this page is no longer active, individuals could still donate money to the treasurer, Brandi Morris, and tell her it is for We the People. 

Story by Ruby Woodson