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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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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