A class of students at Zebulon Middle School have learned a life lesson this year, all while learning about the American political process.
Social Studies teacher Donnie Pearce and AIG teacher Linda Lloyd led the students through the process of trying to create an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
That amendment would require lawmakers to follow the same laws they adopt and apply to other citizens in the country.
While it’s hard to imagine a group of middle school students being the genesis for change in a document as all-encompassing as the U.S. Constitution, the exercise, which lasted throughout the school year, offers students a number of valuable insights:
• Government does not move quickly. By year’s end, students have established the content of their amendment and they’ve determined the most effective way to accomplish that.
They’ve found a lobbyist willing to support their cause by conferring about the matter with a state legislator. And they’ve sought and received support from mayors to establish a state convention on the matter.
There’s still the matter of getting support from the North Carolina legislature and lawmakers in other states.
• Important change takes hard work. It seems incomprehensible to most of us that lawmakers would not be beholden to the same laws as the rest of us. But these students see the value in stating just that idea in a clear way. It’s important for them to learn that, no matter what the issue, if they are serious about changing something they need to be willing to work long and hard to accomplish that change. Most situations in life won’t be as profound as changing the U.S. Constitution. But students will certainly face difficult situations as adults that require them to work diligently to accomplish the change they seek.
• Working within the political system can be effective. Letter writing campaigns, protests and civil disobedience are rarely effective ways to institute change. Working within the established system for making changes – whether it be a political sytem, a workplace environment or even the family home – is often the most effective way to improve circumstances and conditions that merit such change.
This class of students at Zebulon Middle School may move off to high school and never think again about this constitutional amendment, but they’ve learned lessons they can apply in the real world. And those are lessons worth learning.