CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Diane Chen, Jason Alghussein and Alise Hantonosas from Kahuku High and Intermediate competed Saturday in "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" at Kapiolani Community College.
Kahuku wins U.S. Constitution contest
Students prove they know their Rights, and earn a trip east
Calm and composed, 17-year-old Alexandra Roberts looked a federal judge in the eye and told her that identities of convicted child molesters should be available to the public even if 10 years have passed since their release from prison.
The answer was in reply to a question by U.S. District Judge Susan Oki-Mollway about the state's sex offender registry, and it helped Kahuku High School students defend their title in the state competition about the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
In Saturday's contest, "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution," students clad in dresses and wearing suits and ties pretended to be experts testifying in mock congressional hearings.
Kahuku High, which has been undefeated since 1998, beat Hoopale Homeschool Alliance and four other schools at the event, held at Kapiolani Community College. The team won an all-expenses-paid trip to the nationals in Washington, D.C., where winners from the other 49 states and the District of Columbia will face off at the end of April.
The Hawaii students had about four months to study a set of questions. After presenting a rehearsed, opening statement written on cards, they were quizzed by schoolteachers, university professors, public officials and judges -- this time, with no notes allowed.
"That follow-up question is nerve-racking for the kids," said Sandra Cashman, who coordinates the Center for Civics Education program.
Students were asked to explain everything from when civil disobedience can be justified and the importance of due process in a legal case to whether native Hawaiians have a right to form their own, separate government.
Eric Shimabukuro, an 18-year-old senior from Mililani High School, which took third place, said he got hooked into politics through a U.S. history class in his junior year. Now, two of his favorite shows are Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"* and "The Colbert Report," which Shimabukuro says appeals to teens who might otherwise be turned off with the way major TV news networks cover current events.
"If you are not careful, the past will definitely repeat itself," he said. "We are kind of letting it happen again with the Iraq war, which is similar to what happened 30 years ago in Vietnam."
State Associate Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson constantly challenged students to support their arguments with facts and expand their answers at the competition. He said tough questions help panelists determine which team deserves to win and gives students a taste of what they will face during the nationals.
"If it were a teeny-bopper quiz show, we wouldn't be accomplishing the objectives of the program," said Levinson, who judged teams in Washington last year. "What comes out of the mouths of those kids, you just wouldn't believe."
When she competes at the nationals between April 28 and 30, Kahuku High's Roberts said, she will try to maintain her poise as she did in front of Judge Oki-Mollway.
"It is always a challenge to appear not nervous, but that's a part of the competition," she said.
After the awards ceremony, students who spent an entire Saturday morning acting, speaking and looking like adults were kids again -- giggling, joking and talking away on their cell phones.
That was until Kahuku coach Kori Shlachter told them to "start looking at the nationals' questionnaire. That's your homework."
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
» In a story in yesterday's paper on a high school competition about the U.S. Constitution won by Kahuku, the name of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" was misspelled as "John Stewart."