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  Workshop 4: Constitutional Convention  
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Workshop 4

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Student Perspectives: Civic education

Alvin: I might be 18 years old but I'm still a pretty immature person who has a heck of a lot to learn about life in general, but after taking this class, I know more. I hold being a citizen to a greater degree. You may not think that your vote matters, or [that] what you think makes any difference, but as you're going through the course you realize that there was a protest here for something, and you realize this one person had an idea and got a few people behind him and started a little rally, and that rally grew into a big protest. As long as you're persistent and you keep at it, you can work toward a desirable goal. Being a citizen is more than just living in a country. It's participating in your government and being knowledgeable of what's going on. I've started watching C-SPAN every now and then, and CNN more often, just to see what's going on--not just in D.C. or the United States, [but in] the world.

Brionna: At first I had no interest whatsoever in government and politics, but after taking this class, I’m really interested. I read the newspaper almost every day now to figure out what’s going on around the world. I’m an American citizen and it’s important for me to contribute to society, to vote, to give my opinion, to make sure that everything is fair and just in our society. The only way to be able to do that is if you know a lot.

Chris: I can tell that I’ve progressed in his class because I’m making more assumptions on my own. I draw from facts and then draw my own conclusions. I’m not just spitting out what I read the night before. I want to major in government because I believe that the political leaders of today aren’t able to serve African-American citizens in the manner that I think they are capable of doing. So I want to hold a political position where I can change these atrocities that have happened to African Americans, not only over the past 30 years, but maybe the past 50 or 60 years.

Elliott: Civic education is important because if you want to be a responsible citizen, you should understand how your government and other governments work. It's important in high school, because I don't think college is for everybody. Two years ago I was really cynical. I wasn't planning on voting because I wasn't sure that my vote really counted. One thing studying government has done is that I've learned that having a voice is always better than not having a voice. Not voting is like having no voice so voting is always a good thing. You're never going to be completely happy with what's going on, so studying governments of other countries has forced me to appreciate some things that are positive about our government and forced me to look at things in different ways and sort of sparked the desire to build and stay abreast of what's going on--and to keep active instead of being cynical and not doing anything.

Jade: My role as a citizen has become more important to me. I learned that I really do have rights and it's important that other people know that. [From] taking these classes, I know that my role in society is very important in the sense that because I've received this kind of information, it's important to let other people know that they have the same rights and the same responsibilities as a citizen.

Lauren: I understand the structure of the government much better now. Before, I didn't pay attention to the news too much, so I didn’t know too much of what was going on. My father is a reporter, and he actually covered the Clinton campaign, so he knew a lot about what was going on in the executive branch, but I never paid any attention to it. I thought it was boring. This class has made it a lot more interesting and a lot more fun because I actually found myself picking up the newspaper and saying, “Well what's going on?” I looked at Great Britain in class and then after we finished studying it, I still wanted to continue to learn what's going on with Tony Blair, what's going on in the countries, because it's just so interesting. It sparks interest and it kind of leaves you hanging. I don't want to study it so much. I just want to keep up on it. I want to watch the news more.

Toussaint: My parents are very learned people. My parents also don't believe in the capitalist system and so they have very revolutionary ideas. I've taken those ideas. I believe “workers of the world unite.” There are a lot of things about America that I like but I also believe that the capitalist system inevitably will fall. That's something I've been taught. It's not like I can't go to bed without knowing what's going on in the world, but [my parents] keep me abreast of what's going on. In Mr. Johnson's class, in some instances, I've been learning [things that are] almost in opposition to my parents’ political beliefs. That's really helped because it's given me a broader [view]. At home, even though you don’t want to believe it, you're not always told the opposition, and not taught to understand it. Learning it from the other point of view has really helped in seeing what my opposition likes and dislikes. I enjoy just probing people's minds.

Victor: Before I took this class, I had to help my mom study to become a citizen. We drove her to the test and I didn't really agree with it. She had to study little petty questions and she didn't know English that well. It was like, “This is so hard for you ma, why does my government want you to do this, what difference will it make?” But through this class I've learned that the questions aren't really to educate my mother but just to beat out those who are not really willing to sacrifice to put forth the effort. If I would have to agree or disagree with the way things are right now, I'd have to be right in the middle. There are good aspects to my government's method in [granting] citizenship and then there are negative aspects. I'd say we learn why all these laws were put in place and what purpose they serve.

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