submitted by Wendi Howell
Ten 12- and 13-year-old Chipley and Panama City area students were in court on May 3, and their parents and teachers couldn’t be happier. No, they aren’t on trial for truancy or unruly behavior; in fact, many of them will be served as attorneys and law enforcement officers. Classical Conversations’ Challenge B classes throughout the city and across the country held mock trials during April and have more to come in May.
Mock trial has long been an extracurricular staple of prep schools—and now is a fixture in homeschool communities. Students participate in rehearsed courtroom trials to learn about the legal system in a competitive manner. Classical Conversations (CC), the world’s largest classical homeschool organization, uses mock trial competition to teach skills in research, grammar, writing, rhetoric, public speaking, debate and drama.
“I believe it is very important for every American to be well informed about how our justice system works,” said Wendi Howell, Challenge B director for the CC Chipley. “As good citizens and as Christians, we have an obligation to uphold the law in our communities, to protect the defenseless and to speak out for the voiceless. This is what our good—yet imperfect—legal system was created to do.”
This year’s CC mock trial is a fictional criminal trial charging a real estate developer with reckless homicide in the deaths of two people at a construction site following the collapse of a construction crane during a storm. The prosecution has plenty of evidence, while the defense team can argue a variety of theories: not guilty, sabotage by homeless individuals, or merely a tragic accident where no one is at fault.
All the roles are still there: judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, defendant, witnesses and a bailiff. CC’s mock trial program uses local judges or attorneys to play the part of the trial judge, and other adults to play the jury. All the other roles are filled by Challenge B students. All the necessary documents: witness statements, an accident report, pertinent state laws, and evidence exhibits are all provided for the students.
These eighth-grade students have spent the entire spring semester experiencing all three stages of the classical model of education: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. They spent weeks learning the facts of the case and many more weeks wrestling with those facts, trying to determine what facts were missing, finding errors in logic and building cases both for and against the defendant.
Classical Conversations® is a classical education resource used by homeschoolers in all 50 states and 30 foreign countries. CC now has more than 125,000 students enrolled in its tutoring programs, which are provided by more than 2,500 CC communities. CC provides resources, guidance and a community for a Christian homeschool curriculum using classical education in three developmental stages: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric.
Leigh Bortins started Classical Conversations in 1997. The family-owned company is headquartered in Southern Pines, North Carolina. For more information, visit www.classicalconversations.com.