Fifth graders at Del Norte Elementary receive copies of the Constitution during a Constitution Day assembly, Tuesday. Mark Wilson Photo
Fifth-graders at Del Norte Elementary School were visibly shocked when told who the government is during a Constitution Day event at the school’s library, Tuesday.
When local attorney Lee Huntzinger, who gave a presentation all about the U.S. Constitution, asked the children who the government is, one student guessed it is the FBI.
Another student said the government is the people who take one’s money away.
But Huntzinger reassured the students, as they huddled on the library floor, that each of them is the government.
Huntzinger said this was a far cry from how the government worked when the United States was still subject to the command of the king of England.
“Each and every one of you has rights as a person,” Huntzinger said. “You’re not just subjects of the king.”
Freedom from the king of England brought on another issue — how the colonies should govern themselves. Huntzinger said that, as stated in the Preamble, to the U.S. Constitution, the thought of maintaining unity was foremost in the minds of the Founding Fathers. Desire for unity is expressed in the statement, “We the people of the United States.”
Aside from unity, the American colonies needed something else to help establish a government that differed from monarchy.
Huntzinger posed a hypothetical: If a group of people decides it’s time for lunch and another group decides it’s time for recess, how do they reconcile their differences?
Devin Gonzales, 10, was quick to say they would decide by voting.
“That was a whole new idea,” Huntzinger said of the concept of voting. “You’re fifth-graders, and you think of it automatically. … But, for thousands of years it didn’t occur to anyone that you could vote.”
Huntzinger said that the Constitution outlines the structure of the government, as well as one’s individual rights and responsibilities.
Gonzales raised his hand to share what he knew about rights.
“(Rights are) what allows us to do something,” he said.
Several Constitution Day events took place in local schools last week. The anniversary of the actual signing of the Constitution was Sept. 17.
According to a press release from the State Bar of New Mexico, it was the State Bar Public and Legal Education Commission in conjunction with the New Mexico State Bar Foundation that coordinated school activities for Constitution Day.
It is the law that schools which receive federal funds must teach students about the U.S. Constitution.
Huntzinger said she hoped the fifth-graders had fun while learning about one of the most important documents for Americans.
“The Constitution … is the document to our system of government, and to our rights and responsibilities as citizens,” she said.