Congress is bitterly divided. Government norms are under attack. Some Americans wonder whether our Constitution can survive.
If you worry that so much negativity will turn an entire young generation off to politics: Have no fear.
Just talk to Suzanne Kammerman’s Advanced Placement Government and Politics class.
The 23 students examine questions like: How did the framers create the Constitution? How have our Constitutional values and principles shaped American institutions and practices? What challenges does our democracy face in the 21st century?
The Staples juniors and seniors do more than discuss these issues. They compete against other high schools in a simulated congressional hearing, before a panel of actual judges, college law professors, state senators and attorneys.
The local teenagers do it very, very well. Last weekend, they finished 1st in the statewide “We the People” competition.
The victory broke Trumbull High’s 8-year stranglehold on first place. And it earned Staples a spot in April’s national “We the People” event, in Leesburg, Virginia.
The Westporters have qualified before, as 2nd-place wildcard finishers. This is their first year guaranteed a spot, as state champs.
More than 20 years ago, as a student at Shelton High, Kammerman herself participated in “We the People.” It was so powerful, she helped introduce the course to Staples.
Students spend hours outside of class forming teams, researching questions, developing answers, then arguing them in front of prestigious, difficult judges.
At a time when many Americans throw up their hands about government, it’s good to know that a great group of Westport teenagers embrace it.
(“We the People” winners include Surya Balaji, Taha Banatwala, Lucy Belknap, Brian Campbell, Violet Cooper, Lars Djuve, Michael Farnen, Dylan Goodman, Grace Katz, Kashvi Kumar, Brett Levy, Gary Lu, Natalia Maidique, William Matar, Tadeo Messenger, Neha Navrange, Maximus Pace, Samuel Powell, Claire Redmer, Andrew Spangler, Nicholas Suarez, Rachel Suggs and Samantha Webster.)