As I have done each September for the last several years to celebrate Constitution Day, today I visited Indiantown Middle School in south Florida and shared a little bit about the U.S. Constitution with Ms. DeLeon’s eighth grade history students. This year, we added Ms. Guzman’s seventh grade students to the mix, as well.
My favorite part of the presentation revolves around an activity called “The Invaders.” The teachers and I inform the students that invaders have entered the United States and have demanded we give up five of the ten constitutional rights that I have spoken with the students about during the day’s discussion. We ask the students to choose the rights they will give up, and the rights they will keep.
Last year, several students balked at giving up any rights. Two young ladies, and a young man, all informed me they would not give up their constitutional rights, even if it meant going to jail. This year, history repeated itself as one young student, Ismael, immediately told me he refused to give up any rights, and he would fight for them if necessary. These children truly valued the freedom we all enjoy living in the U.S. of A.
The rest of the students this year willingly gave up some rights and refused to give up others. All of the students – six separate classes amounting to hundreds of students altogether – refused to give up their right to freedom of speech. I suspect this reflects the middle schooler belief that they need to talk and talk and talk (I am the father to four middle schoolers or former middle schoolers, so I know of what I speak).
On the other hand, most of the students readily gave up their constitutional right to counsel. Not good news for me as the lawyer in the room.
After spending the day with the students, they hopefully had a better appreciation for the importance of our Constitution. I certainly had a better appreciation for the difficult job middle school teachers have keeping students engaged each day, all day. About that job, Lily Tomlin once said, “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” Hopefully Ms. DeLeon, Ms. Guzman, and I did that today.