We the People preps for State competition

Coach says team is ready for Dec. 11-12 event

Lauren Smith , Reporter

After many weekly three-hour Sunday practices and an additional one-hour practice during the week of researching, writing and preparing for their upcoming competition, the We the People team will advance to the State competition Dec 11 and Dec. 12.

Ms. Jill Baisinger, social studies teacher and We the People coach, said, “We the People is a program sponsored by the center for civic education. All 50 states have a We the People program. Here at Cathedral it is part of the AP Government curriculum for the We the People class. The whole class then competes as a team.”

She said, “Students break up into six units that deal with different areas of constitutional history, philosophy and/or current events. Each unit has to prepare three four-minute papers, which they will be asked to present in front of a panel of judges. The judges are actually attorneys, professors or trial bench judges themselves. After (the students) present their topic, the panel of judges asks them any question that they want about that constitutional issue.”

In its last competition, the We the People team won its Regional competition and four out of the six units received the highest scores.

When asked what improvements could be made for the team, Baisinger said, “For the State level competition, the judges are a lot more critical and expect a more in-depth knowledge than what we saw at the Regional competition. The students have to spend more time going into research, going deeper than just a surface level. That’s one thing that we are constantly working on, being able to have that greater depth.”

She continued, “The other piece is being able to look for that unique approach and being able to think of a different solution to a constitutional problem that maybe another team is not going to talk about.”

Senior Stephen Vukovits said, “In order to prepare for this component, we devote our Sunday practices to having mock panels of local attorneys and judges ask us difficult questions.”

Vukovits participates in Unit 1, which focuses on governmental philosophy, and also in Unit 4, which focuses on interactions between the three branches of government.

He said, “Ms. Baisinger and our advisers do a great job of preparing us, so I have no doubt we will be ready when the State competition rolls around.”

If it wins the State competition, the We the People team will represent Indiana in Washington in late April for the national competition.

Vukovits said, “I like how applicable We the People has been in understanding everything from why our government was created the way it was, all the way up to current events that happen today. We have become well-informed citizens who can look at a news story and understand its implications on a deeper level. Additionally, we have all formed strong political beliefs that we can back up with loads of evidence.”

We the People provides many benefits for students in their academics, in preparation for college and in life.

Baisinger said, “The number of students that I have who come back and say (they benefit from) time management from the workload they have had to balance with (other extracurriculars and classes) makes them have a stronger time management. Their ability to argue a position with true content while being open-minded to others is a skill that I think is valuable not only during competition but for students in real life.”

Vukovits said, “Outside of the IB program, We the People is by far the most beneficial program for students at Cathedral. Even if someone is not that interested in politics, this program teaches valuable research, critical-thinking, time management and life skills.”

He continued, “The students who take this program will go on to be the most informed voters and civic participants of our future generation. As someone who was already interested in politics, doing this program has increased my excitement for future study in this area in college and beyond.”