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K-State Today

February 19, 2018

College of Education hosts 2018 ‘We the People’ state championships

By Patrice L. Scott

For two years in a row, Blue Valley Northwest High School has won the annual "We the People" state competition and will head to Washington, D.C. for the national competition. 

The Constitution was under no direct threat but the threat of a winter storm required organizers to reschedule the middle school competition to Feb. 25. The high schools competed on Feb. 6 in Manhattan as planned. 

Blue Valley Northwest High School, led by government and AP government teacher Ken Thomas, won the "We the People" competition. Emporia High School took second place, and Junction City High School placed third. Colman McCarthy with the Johnson County First Amendment Foundation presented Blue Valley with a $5,000 check to help pay for the team’s travel expenses to the national "We the People" competition this spring in Washington, D.C. The foundation is supporting Emporia’s trip to the national competition with a $1,000 contribution.   

The event was organized by College of Education faculty members Brad Burenheide, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and Thomas S. Vontz, professor of curriculum and instruction and director of the Center for Social Studies Education.  

"The students were impressive, making reasoned arguments about critical constitutional issues and connecting constitutional ideas to historical and current events," Vontz said. "This kind of intelligent, mature, and civil discourse about our similarities and differences has been and will continue to be an important marker of the health of our republic. This doesn’t happen accidentally and requires deliberate attention to help "We the People" thoughtfully engage the ongoing debates about the meaning and application of constitutional ideas. Brad and I applaud the teachers of these ideas because they are on the front lines of attempting to keep our experiment in self-government vibrant and healthy."  

Burenheide and Vontz both expressed how impressed the volunteer judges were. The judges were teachers, K-State education students, and actual judges from the state who volunteered their knowledge and time to evaluate the performance of the students. 

The "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program" promotes civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s upper elementary and secondary students. The "We the People" printed textbook's and Enhanced Ebook's interactive strategies, relevant content and the simulated congressional hearing make teaching and learning exciting for both students and teachers. The program enjoys active support from state bar associations and foundations, and other educational, professional, business, and community organizations across the nation. Since its inception in 1987, more than 28 million students and 75,000 educators have participated in the "We the People" program.  

The high schools and their sponsoring teachers in the competition were: 

  • Blue Valley Northwest, Overland Park, Ken Thomas.
  • Cedar Vale High School, Cedar Vale, Joseph Fox.
  • Emporia High School, Emporia, Jamie Dawson. 
  • Junction City High School, Junction City, Reina Cruz.
  • McPherson High School, McPherson, Bryan Little and Megan Nieman. 
  • Valley Heights High School, Blue Rapids, Lew Whitson. 
  • Jefferson West High School, Meriden, Blanche Wulfekoetter.
  • Abilene High School, Abilene, Janeal Schmidt.