Area 5th-graders are willing to give up the right to a free press and freedom of religion, among others rights enjoyed by Americans.
As he does every year, last week Magistrate Judge Mateo Page visited with 5th-grade students to talk about the U.S. Constitution. Part of that visit asks students to prioritize the American rights laid out in the Constitution—and decide which five they want to keep and which five they want to get rid of.
Page visited both Moriarty Elementary and Route 66 Elementary last week. The Independent listened in as students deliberated over which rights to keep and which to let go.
“Keep bear arms, so we can kill people if they’re going to eat us,” one student said.
“Keep freedom of speech,” another kid said, “or somebody will be telling you what to say.”
Another wanted to preserve the right against self-incrimination “because we’d be in a dungeon eating rotten food.”
“Keep the right to an attorney and jury trial,” another student said. “That means you get judged if you did a crime.”
“We do need privacy, but what about religion? It outweighs privacy,” another student said.
The students had broken up into small groups at this point for discussion, before re-gathering in the larger group to tally their results. “Freedom of religion? Do we keep it or get rid of it?” a student asked his group. “Get rid of it!” another replied.
“I want a right to freedom of the press,” one said.
“Freedom of assembly. Does that mean we can eat?” another asked.
Another group had already made their choices, with a student saying, “Get rid of self-incrimination, right to trial, right to assemble, freedom of the press and unreasonable search and seizure.” Another student in that group explained, “We thought those ones weren’t necessary and didn’t really matter—we just didn’t want them.”
“My favorite is free speech,” a student in another group said. “Like Rosa Parks.”
“I favor the right to bear arms, because if we don’t have any guns or anything we can’t protect ourselves,” said another.
In different group, one student said, “The right to a trial?” Another student in that group replied, “No! I don’t want to be busted.”
In the end, the 5th-graders decided they would keep the right to keep and bear arms; the right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment; the right to freedom of speech; the right to privacy; and the right to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The students decided to forgo these rights: the right to protection from self-incrimination; the right to legal counsel and a jury trial; the right to freedom of religion; the right to peaceably assemble and the right to a free press.
Page does the annual visits to the classrooms to educate students about the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, part of his ongoing efforts to reach out to young people and de-mystify the courts and his role as a judge.
This presentation used the story of aliens landing on Earth and taking over, then telling Earthlings they get to pick which ones they want to keep. The instructions to students say that if students don’t make a unanimous decision, “you will lose all of your freedoms.”
Page also handed out a flyer with “fascinating facts about the U.S. Constitution,” and information about the three branches of government enshrined there, along with a crossword puzzle about Constitution Day—the reason for his visit to the schools.
Students were also all given their own copy of the Constitution.