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Editorial: We the People team's civics study heartens many

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
April 14, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial


Like it or not, we live in a time where, for some people at least, it's become acceptable to speak about "reloading" when doing battle against political opponents and to mark their political districts with gun sites, and where members of a Midwestern church believe it's their duty to travel the nation and spew hate-laced messages in places where people are mourning tragedy.

For those of you looking for a speck of hope for civil discourse, we want to call your attention to a post on our First Impressions blog made April 7 by our reporter Rebecca Berfanger.

Rebecca writes about a group of about 30 high school students from Munster that spent some time at Indianapolis-based law firm Baker & Daniels preparing for their We the People competition in Washington, D.C., later this month. The program is coordinated by the Indiana Bar Foundation.

We the People is a semester-long civics course for high school students about the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that ends with a mock congressional hearing where students present on various topics. Students work in teams to answer pre-determined questions before a panel of judges, who then ask follow-up questions to determine how much the students know about the subject at hand.

It's heartening to see busy lawyers take the time to volunteer to work with and encourage high school students. B&D partner Scott Chinn, himself no stranger to politics after working for former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson as corporation counsel, offered pointers for the students to keep in mind during their competition. He also encouraged the students to continue their work by voting, educating those around them about important issues while respecting the right to disagree, and to exercise their rights to remonstrate when they take issue with the direction their government is heading.

Our reporter was among those at the practice who were impressed with how intelligent and articulate the students were given the difficult subject matter some of them dealt with. One group compared the Magna Carta, the United States Bill of Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We the People appears to not be for the faint of heart.

That teenagers can take such a keen interest in these kinds of matters has to be a sign of hope for the future of civility and our ability as a nation to disagree and yet make decisions for the good of us all.

The Munster students' teacher, Michael Gordon, said it best of all: "When we take on the rigors of civic education with the vigor generally reserved for sport, and when the arena we play in is one of the top law firms in the state, there is something right in society."

We agree, and we'd like to see more of it. To learn more, visit http://firstimpressions.theindianalawyer.com/

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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