Hart Junior High students show they know their Constitutional history and issues

Why do we recognize the Treaty of Paris? Do you know which of the original articles of the United States Constitution talks about taxation? What was the end result of Shay’s Rebellion? 

James Hart Junior High students pose with
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (fourth from right)
Friday, Nov. 21.

Maybe you left United States history lessons behind long ago and would have to ponder those questions, but students at James Hart Junior High can proudly give you the answers.

During a Congressional Hearings program on Friday, Nov. 21, the eighth graders took part in an assembly at which U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) addressed them, and then went on to be quizzed on various aspects of the country’s early years and the benefits of the Constitution.

Kelly, who was re-elected to Congress on Nov. 4, explained how she came to serve in Washington as the 2nd Congressional District representative following the resignation of Jesse Jackson Jr.

The students before her were too young to vote, but Kelly urged them all to register when they turn 18. She reminded them that voting is how citizens get a place at the table.

“Don’t think your vote doesn’t count. It does,” she said and told how the Illinois treasurer’s race was decided two weeks after the Nov. 4 election because it took so long to sort out all the votes cast in that very close race.

Kelly, who served on the municipal and state levels before being elected to Congress, asked students to consider a career in public service: “We need people who are interested in serving others in rewarding careers.”

Teachers Aimee Davis and Virginia Donahue arranged the educational portion of the morning program. They worked with the 250 students on Constitution issues for three weeks supervising their discussions and Internet research.

On Congressional Hearings day, the students—in groups of four or five—filed into 19 classrooms where parents and guests served as judges to hear the students’ statements on nine specific questions, such as the benefits of the Articles of Confederation and the Northwest Ordinance. Then the judges quizzed them on related topics.

Students know the Constitution is the foundation of the country and hold it sacrosanct, but a few suggested changes, such as stricter gun laws, and the right of immigrants to be president.

By the way, the answers to those opening questions are:

  • The Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War in 1783.
  • Article I of the Constitution calls for direct taxes distribution among the states.
  • Shay’s Rebellion in 1786-87, an uprising against regressive tax policies that led to the takeover of property and goods in Massachusetts, helped move the new nation toward a strong central government.

Contact Marilyn Thomas at [email protected]



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