Northwest Horizons

We the People students reflect on their class experiences

Aidan Bennett, Staff Writer

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We the People is a competition-based class for seniors taught by APUSH teacher, Ray Parrish. The class uses the United States Constitution as the primary source of learning throughout the year. Students learn to develop their speaking skills, interpret the constitution and debate with one another in an exciting way.

Northwest’s We the People class will be traveling to Washington, D.C. for the national competition after placing second in the state competition on March 18. North Carolina received a “wild card,” thus allowing Northwest’s team to attend this prestigious competition.

One element of the class that makes We the People a dynamic class is the unit system that allows participants to bond with a small group. Students are divided into six units, each of which focus on a particular topic. 

“My unit, unit six, has helped me tremendously in expanding my mind, as well as my views,” senior Kiana Villanueva said. “My unit is really diverse in the fact that we’re all from different backgrounds and places, and cover the whole spectrum regarding political views.”

Learning within units allows students to build off of their previously held beliefs, as well as discover new ones. This type of thought-provoking exploration encourages teamwork and friendship. Over the course of the year, Villanueva explains that the bond becomes stronger and unit members become close friends. We the People is an excellent environment to discuss issues that many would not typically talk about, with people they may not know.

We the People students pose at the annual state competition. The Northwest team was the first runner-up, and will compete at the national tournament later this year. Photo contributed by Kiana Villanueva; Graphic by Aidan Bennett

We the People students pose at the annual state competition. The Northwest team was the first runner-up, and will compete at the national tournament later this year. Photo contributed by Kiana Villanueva; Graphic by Aidan Bennett

The diversity in units allows We the People members to glean a significant amount of information simply by speaking with one another. Sharing opinions is one way classmates come to conclusions on topics.

“Not only have I learned a lot from the books I’ve read and the research I’ve done, but I have also learned so much from my classmates,” senior Hayley Russo said. “There are many people in the class with differing views and it gives me the opportunity to hear different beliefs and opinions.”

Because of the particular study of each unit, competitors also learn many things about their task. For example, unit two specializes in the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention and the ratification of the Constitution. Those who enter unit two learn a great deal about these particular items in order to utilize them at competition.

“I really enjoy being a member of unit two because I have learned so much about the process of creating the Constitution and how it still has such a great impact in today’s society,” Russo said. “I find it incredible how far our country has come and how the founding fathers were able to create a document that would unite the states and remain the basis of our country for centuries to come.”

We the People not only provides an opportunity to learn about the Constitution itself, but also to speak about important societal issues, and how to deal with this issues. We the People covers a wide range of subject matter, from philosophy to current events.

“[We the People] has challenged me to see the two sides to every issue we talk about,” senior Hannah Cook said. “We have talked about some sensitive topics like abortion, separation of church and state and terrorism.”

Students are instructed to listen to each side of the argument before pursuing the truth of the matter. This allows them to get a clear view of the situation, rather than making a snap decision based simply upon opinion. Because of their training, participants are able to hold valid, insightful debates on touchy subjects.

“[We the People] has especially taught me the value of respecting another person’s opinion, even if I don’t agree with them,” Cook said. “Mr. Parrish really challenges us to know why we believe what we believe, and to back up what we believe with facts, which I think is something that we generally don’t hear very often.

 

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We the People students reflect on their class experiences