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  • Writer's pictureEast Spotlight Newspaper

Spotlight on Con Law at East

There’s still over 6 months until the 2024 presidential elections, but headlines, campaigns, and family dinner tables across the country are already filled with discussions about the state of American Democracy today. However, regardless of how one feels about either 2024 presidential candidate, another existential threat to democracy is growing, buried beneath the campaign messages; a growing decline in civic knowledge and participation. A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that less than half of Americans can name all three branches of government. According to the World Economic Forum, only 30% of people born since 1980 consider it “essential” to live in a democratic country. That’s why education programs, such as East High School’s Constitutional Law class, are so important for students today.

In East’s Con Law program, students are given three sets of questions as part of their panel, made up of 4-5 people. They study each one carefully, creating short opening statements responding to the question and gathering evidence to respond to follow up questions. Students spend the first semester preparing for the state competition, held in December. In the second semester, if East wins at the state competition, students then prepare for the national competition, held in Washington DC in April. The workload is intense; according to Mandy Hostetter, the teacher who runs the program, 

“I feel bad knowing how much work you have to put into it if you want to be successful and sometimes it feels like it is too much, but that’s what we have to do in order to be competitive, it’s like a catch 22. It’s too much but we have to do it.” The high workload pays off; This year and last year, East won 4th place out of the 48 teams from across the country who competed on the national level. East has won the state competition 9 years in a row, and in total, East has won the national competition 5 times since the program started in 1987.

Overall, the amount of effort students put into the program is well-rewarded. Fiona MacDonald, a junior in the class this year, feels very positively about the class. 

“It's my favorite class I've taken at East, it's been really amazing and I highly recommend the program.” Ms. Hostetter agreed that students overwhelmingly enjoy the class overall. 

“No one regrets it. Once you get through the experience, you would not regret doing it. It’s going to be hard, you’re going to want to quit, but if you persevere and push through it it’s gonna be super rewarding.” 

There are numerous other benefits to the class as well. For example, as MacDonald said, “The biggest thing I got out of Con Law was definitely the base of knowledge- I really feel like I learned so much and retained a lot of information that's going to be useful in the future.” Ms. Hostetter also pointed out the opportunities for students to learn to collaborate with others, improve writing, and learn public speaking skills. 

“Writing skills and your ability to articulate responses to complex ideas and thoughts using evidence and explaining why you think something exists, that is such a huge skill”

The class offers students interested in government and civics the opportunity to engage with the subject in an exciting way, with the opportunity to visit Washington DC. Con Law is available to anyone who is interested and is willing to take on the challenge. Given the benefits for students of the class, it will hopefully continue to be a popular class and grant students the chance to learn about the American government through such a unique competition.  

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