Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Mary Beth White, a student at Heights High School in Wichita, won first place and $750 in the second annual Kansas Constitution Bee. Her teacher, Christopher Kemp, received a matching cash prize.
Held on Saturday, April 10 at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita, Kan., the statewide competition tested high school students’ understanding of American history and civics. The Kansas Constitution Bee is sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, a nonprofit educational organization based in Arlington, Va., and underwritten by the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation.
“Mary Beth demonstrated her knowledge of our Founding period and a firm understanding of the Founding documents and our constitutional government,” said Victoria Hughes, president of the Bill of Rights Institute. “We’re proud to honor Mary Beth and her teacher, Chris Kemp, whose great dedication to teaching these concepts has had a lasting impact.”
“Our goal for the Kansas Constitution Bee is to encourage learning about our nation’s Founding documents and principles,” said Susan Addington, grants manager for the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation. “We also view the event as a great way to provide students with meaningful and useful knowledge they can apply in their daily lives.”
Students from four regions corresponding to Kansas’ Congressional districts began competing for spots in the Kansas Constitution Bee at the classroom level last fall. Regional competitions followed in January, February, and March. The competitions assessed the students’ understanding of five civic knowledge categories including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; famous people, documents, and events from United States history; Supreme Court decisions; current events; and civic values and skills.
Sixteen regional winners attended the Constitution Bee finals and participated in written and oral examinations on American history and current events. The four students with the highest scores then competed in a third and final round: the “Civic Conversation” roundtable discussion.
These students were asked the following question 30 minutes prior to the discussion: “Discuss the role of federalism in promoting liberty—past, present, and future.” They were then asked to relate the question to the Supreme Court Case U.S. v. Lopez (1995), Federalist Essay No. 39, Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address (1859), and Anti-Federalist Essay: Brutus No. 1. Students addressed the question in an opening statement and participated in a 30-minute roundtable discussion with other finalists, speaking before contest officials, parents and teachers.
The students were judged according to their knowledge and understanding of the question and historical documents, as well as their contributions to the civil discourse.