We The People
We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution provides an understanding of the political philosophy underlying our Constitution and Bill of Rights and their impact in history and relevance to current-day issues. The materials include critical thinking exercises and activities and cooperative learning techniques to develop participatory skills, while increasing student knowledge of the institutions of American constitutional democracy. There is a culminating activity in the format of simulated legislative hearings with the opportunity for high school classes to compete in an annual state (and national) competition.
We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution
We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution is a program of the Center for Civic Education in Calabasas, CA. It is coordinated in New Jersey by the New Jersey Center for Civic Education.
The instructional program enhances the students' understanding of government and American constitutional democracy. At the same time the students discover the contemporary relevance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The culminating activity is a simulated congressional hearing (See below) in which the students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of constitutional principles. The students have the opportunity to evaluate, take, and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues. The 2024 New Jersey State Finals Hearings will be held on January 24th at the Busch Campus Center.
Independent studies reported that students who use the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution materials outperform other students on political knowledge and philosophy and were more politically tolerant than students who use traditional textbooks and teaching approaches.
At the 2019-20 annual New Jersey State We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution competition for high schools, East Brunswick High School placed first and represented New Jersey at the National We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Competition in April.
Montclair High School finished second and Marlboro High School earned third place. Bayonne High School, Hopewell Valley Regional High School, Steinert High School, and West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North received civic education awards.
State Winner, 2018-19
East Brunswick High School, We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution State Winner, 2018-19
Simulated Legislative Hearings
- Congress has formed a congressional committee to examine the U.S. Constitution and the purposes of government.
- The students will prepare and testify before the simulated congressional committee as expert witnesses on the Constitution.
- Form teams: 3-6 students for each of the units.
- Each team works collaboratively to prepare answers to all the questions for the unit.
- Students review materials in the We the People textbook and research other material prepare 4-minute written responses to the questions for each unit and get ready to answer follow-up questions
- The teacher selects 3 people (other teachers, administrators, or members from the community) to serve as “legislators” or judges for each unit
Hearing (10 minutes per question)
- Teams of students orally respond to questions (notes can be used) for 4 minutes.
- members ask students follow-up questions and students respond (no notes allowed) for 6 minutes.
- Panel members assess the prepared oral presentation and the responses to the follow-up questions using the rubrics
The classroom materials are designed to be user-friendly to students with a wide range of abilities and may be used as a core or supplemental text for a full semester of study.
Critical thinking exercises, problem-solving activities, cooperative learning and simulated legislative hearings help develop intellectual and participatory skills. The materials are easily integrated into a civics, U.S. History or U.S. Government class, or as a stand-alone curriculum.
Classroom sets of We the People materials, which include 30 student textbooks and a teacher's guide, may be ordered by going to http://store.civiced.org
An ebook is now available for high schools. If you are interested in considering these materials you can have free 28-day access to the We the People ebook by going to http://civiced.org/resources/publications/ebooks