The Pennsylvania Bar Association is committed to civic and law-related education in Pennsylvania schools. Upon taking office in May 2018, 2018-19 PBA President Charles Eppolito III announced his plans to develop videos and lesson plans to support teachers’ efforts to increase high school students’ knowledge and understanding of our Constitution. Informed  and engaged citizens are critical to the success of a republic. 

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." 
—Thomas Jefferson.

Eppolito encourages attorneys and judges to visit local classrooms and talk with students about their responsibilities, the vital role of the judicial branch in our system of government and the many opportunities that exist for students to be civically engaged in their communities. We cannot take our freedoms for granted. Too many men and women have fought and sacrificed to ensure our American way of life, and civic education also plays an important role in preserving American democracy. 

“The Constitution does not belong just to judges and attorneys. It is yours. And with this possession comes serious responsibilities. It is not just the President who must preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. All of us must do so. But you cannot preserve what you do not revere; you cannot protect what you do not comprehend; you cannot defend what you do not know.”
– U.S.  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (retired)

We the People…
Many People. Many Beliefs. One Constitution.

This preview is part of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s educational video series, Many People. Many Beliefs. One Constitution. The project is an initiative of 2018-2019 PBA President Charles Eppolito III, who is featured in this video. PBA extends a sincere thank you to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia for its assistance and use of the museum to make this video.

Many People. Many Beliefs. One Constitution.
This 14-minute video provides an overview of the making of our Constitution and raises questions for further discussion and exploration with students, encouraging them to think more deeply about the many people and beliefs that have always existed in our nation and how it makes our form of government unique. Talking points and examples of questions to use with the video are provided below. A special thank you to the National Constitution Center and Kerry Sautner, Chief Learning Officer, for their invaluable contributions to this video.

Writing the Afghan Constitution: A Conversation with Lt. Col. Platte B. Moring III (retired)
This 18-minute video is part of the PBA’s educational video series, Many People. Many Beliefs. One Constitution. Students will gain an appreciation of our U.S. Constitution by hearing first-hand experiences from retired Lt. Col. Platte Moring who proudly served our country in a combat zone and was then asked to serve on the Afghan Constitution Commission, alongside Afghan leaders and elected delegates, to write the 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan. He shares his insights about notable differences between the Afghan Constitution and our constitution in order to encourage students to compare and contrast some of the fundamental principles and beliefs at the core of these documents and then consider how they impact our daily lives. We hope this video will inspire students to examine the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law from a different perspective. We extend a special thank you to Lt. Col. Moring (ret.) for his service to our country and his willingness to share his experience with us. Please note: Use of Lt. Col. (ret.) Moring’s military rank, job titles and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or the Department of the Army.

Supporting resources to use with this video:

Hold a Constitutional Convention for your class in conjunction with the video, “Writing the Afghan Constitution: A Conversation with Lt. Col. Platte B. Moring III (retired).” In addition to discussing the rule of law and different aspects of the U.S. Constitution, Lt. Col. Moring explains how societal norms of a country impact the drafting of a constitution. By participating in the Constitutional Convention activity, students will have an opportunity to appreciate how different desires and the need for compromise can influence how a constitution is written.

The Veterans National Education Program provides historically accurate, media-rich, educational resources with a focus on events “as seen through the eyes of veterans.” Materials help students explore current world affairs and history, develop critical thinking and decision-making skills and gain a better understanding of America’s most cherished values of freedom and democracy.

State of the First Amendment
PBA President Charles Eppolito III joined with a group of partners, including the PBA Bar/Press Committee, for the “State of the First Amendment” program at Parkland High School in Allentown. Students were surveyed about their views of the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. PBS39 recorded the unveiling of the sometimes surprising survey results.

Talking points and lessons for lawyers, judges and teachers
Student handout

Take the U.S. Constitution Preamble Challenge
The PBA is challenging Pennsylvania students to use your voice, get involved and be heard! Recite the preamble. Be creative. Express yourselves. You’ve been challenged, now what will you do?

How to participate: Visit the Civics Renewal Network to register your class and get details. Share your activities, photos and videos on Twitter and Instagram by using #RenewCivics and #PBAChallenge

Classroom Resources
There are many excellent resources available to students and teachers on the Internet. Some of those resources are identified on our Resources on the Constitution page.

ABA Survey of Civic Literacy Results and Resources

The American Bar Association recently released the results from its 2019 Survey of Civic Literacy, which highlighted gaps in Americans’ knowledge of basic civics, history, and government. You can use this web resource to explore the survey, its findings, and key takeaways.

The American Bar Association’s 2019 Leon Jaworski Public Program on this year’s Law Day theme, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” focuses on “The Marketplace of Ideas in an Era of Fake News.” It includes an hour-long video program with distinguished panelist offering different perspectives, framing questions that can be posed to students for consideration and response, short essays in the downloadable program book and other resources to engage students in learning and exploring the important principles found in the First Amendment.