state-photo-formalIt is been one week and the shine has still not faded.  I knew that this blog post was coming, but there was some avoidance because of the emotions associated with the win, the memories that led to moment and, of course, the reality of preparing a team to compete in Washington DC.

My kids compete in a state where there is a major obstacle to any hope of winning; that obstacle is the dominant Brown County team led by Mike Potts, an award winning educator.  Brown County won the first six Indiana State championships, is  two-time National We the People champion and a two-time National We the People runner-up.  His kids are poised, prepared and have been the gold standard for my team over the last three years.  We have tried to emulate their poise and have approached each day knowing that we needed to put in the extra work because we knew that Brown County was using every minute to get better.  There is no bitterness towards them; my team admires them and looks at them with great respect.

Thstate-crown-plaza-stagee day was a blur at many levels.  The Indiana Bar Foundation puts on a first class event; my kids were impressed with the venue and attention to details.  We are lucky to compete in Indiana where the State provides funding for the program.  The entire Foundation has been so helpful to our program.

Here is a brief rundown for those who do not know what my kids do in competition.  My team is made up of 6 units with each unit specializing in a different part of our government; for example, Unit 1 deals with the philosophical roots (think Aristotle, Plato, John Locke) of our government, while Unit 5 covers the 1st Amendment and Due Process.  Each unit is given three different prompts that they need to research, form ideas about, and write a 4-minute response.  At competition the panel of judges will call for one of the prompts.  After the 4-minute prepared response the magic happens.  For 8-minutes judges ask my kids questions about the paper.  This is the part of We the People that makes the hard work worth while.  There were a couple moments at State when tears formed in my eyes while my kids were answering questions.

  • Morgan from my Unit 3 ended their discussion on the Electoral College by respectfully disagreeing with her teammates by talking about the historical roots that no longer existed that led to its creation.  It culminated a discussion that feature Federalist 68, the 3/5ths clause, public education, regionalism, social media, and statistics on what each electoral vote represented by state.  The person keeping time noticed my tears and gave me the knowing smile.  She understood that her teammates, my students, understood.  They understood what being educated truly means.
  • There was also a moment in the second round of Unit 6 when the judge could not stop raving about my kids.  He noted their poise, knowledge, and conviction.  One of the things he said stood out in my mind, “some people hold on strongly to their ignorance.”.  Tears, lots of tears.


There was a moment when I knew everything circling-at-statefrom the year mattered.  It exceeded winning.  It transcended the entire process.  First off we work from the very beginning of the year to “circle”.  Does not seem like a tough assignment for my Weoples, but it causes problems.  It takes until the 10th time before we “master” it…it makes me laugh.  By tradition we read the poem Invictus.  I love the poem. It speaks about the power of the individual to overcome impossible tasks and odds.   I start out the year by having four students read a stanza at the beginning of each class; my intent is to make the kids gain comfort in public speaking.  There is a little of a hidden agenda for them to realize who controls their success.  I asked just before we started our first round who wanted to read; Izzy proclaimed that they all had it memorized and they started to recite it from memory.  As I looked around the circle their eyes were filled with tears; so were mine.  They understood.  Gracey noted the moment in her “post-State” reflection:Invictus

Fassold has coined the concept of “circling”, in which all of us gather in a circle to receive a pep talk and encouragement from him before and after we compete. In these times, we recite our class poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. My absolute favorite moment that I can relive completely, is closing my eyes to hear everyone’s voice ringing mightily in circle formation, reciting the powerful lines, stanza after stanza. In this moment, we had the determination of a fairytale, and we were ready to slay whatever dragon was to come our way.

My kids had their own perspectives on the class.  I want people to understand the impact of the class on them.

 “What is your favorite memory?” There are so many memories that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but a favorite would just be the entire day of state. State like I said was a roller coaster of emotions but looking back it was one of the best days of my life and seeing all of our work pay off. I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything. – Addi

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?” As a member of unit 6, I was up to the task about learning about civic activity and its value to our government as an everyday citizen.  Using this makes me feel pride for my country and realize that as the next generation it is my job to be knowledgeable and involved in society.  Now, I find true motivation to serve others and play my role in society, whatever that is and becomes later in life.  – Braden

Do you have a funny memory about class?  I have a somewhat funny memory about class though it is kind of nerdy.  When one member of our team was speaking about hate speech, he brought up a case called Whitney vs. California though instead of saying this he said Whitney vs. Houston.  – Braden

 “What is your favorite memory?” My favorite memory would have to be right after we went our first time in state and I looked over and Fassold was crying. It was at that moment I knew we had made it, we had done what we came here to do, we had learned. Sitting there listening to the judge’s great feedback as Fassold looked at us with such pride brought tears to my eyes. At that moment we were more than a team, we were family. – Cassidy

 “What is the best thing about We the People?”  I think the best part about We the People would have to be that every student has a strength or gift and it allows the students whose talent is that they feel passionately about government to be able to activate that in a team competition. A lot of students our age take interest in sports or music and not a lot of 13 year olds like to speak about government, so it allows these students to express their thoughts publicly. Also, it lets these all different kinds of kids come together and find a common interest and talk about it as if we were adults.  – Faith

 “Describe what State competition was for you.” This is going to sound incredibly cheesy, but one of the best days of my life. It started so nerve racking and as we kept competing I had a feeling that this was our competition. Every time another unit performed we kept getting better and better. Then, awards came and everyone was so scared. There was tears, shivering hands, and uncontrollably moving legs. We were confident, but not too much just because we didn’t want to get our hopes up. Once they didn’t call us for second we all were beaming with joy. We all gave each other a look that said “We made it this far with each other and it all paid off right in this moment”. They then called our name for first and everyone was in happy tears. It’s like having an incredibly nerdy family and I wouldn’t want to take on nationals with anyone else. – Faith

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?” Work is love made visible. We each have worked so hard to get to this point and it shows because not anyone of us doesn’t take WTP seriously. We have sacrificed long nights and lots of time to get to where we are and it has most definitely paid off. We also do it for each other, we all know we want it so bad that we continually made sure everything was perfection. -Faith

 “What have learned that has impacted you personally?” I have learned how to have an opinion and be proud of it. I’ve also learned the importance of having different opinions. Our government and society only change with differing opinions and you can value a person without valuing their opinion. Being on this team and working with this amazing teacher has changed my life for the better. I am so proud of the connections we have made and the knowledge we have gained in four months. I’m incredibly excited to learn so much more. – Grace

“What is the best thing about We the People?”   When I leave my fourth period class every day to attend fifth period We the People, there’s a sense of urgency getting to Mr. Fassold’s classroom, no matter how close it is. Upon entering, you can feel the essence in the room; we’re doing something unusual, something special. We are not colleagues, not classmates, not even friends- we are a family now. We have bonded in our units and as a whole community. The best thing is that it’s not even about the court cases or the philosophy, it’s the love for each other and our history. – Gracey

 “Describe what State competition was for you.”    Mr. Fassold always says that you can never understand what competition is like until you’ve actually competed. This idea was apparent at our state competition, even though we’d already attended regionals. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and absolute terror. I personally felt unprepared and nervous, but as soon as our units competed, I understood that it’s what we’d been preparing for. We were as prepared as we could be.  – Gracey

“In your own words describe We the People.” To me, We the People is a madhouse! Our class studies the Constitution, Magna Carta, philosophers, court cases, and current events in relation to each separate unit. Each unit writes a paper about a certain series of questions, and then debates in follow-up relating to your unit and other applicable questions. On an emotional level, your unit shares many late time stamps and arguments about the Electoral College. We share more than just a teammate bond, but instead the feeling of joy when you enter into follow-up and the smiles that flood our faces when someone mentions the Federalist Papers or voter turnout. We the People to me is a family away from my own family. It’s a class where we learn more than our brains are capable of, and a class where we shed many tears of happiness. I love We the People – it’s a class like no other, and I’ve been so blessed to share my journey throughout our history with my thirty other future presidents. – Izzy

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?”  I have learned how to debate rationally, how to research, how to quote, how to work with other people, and most importantly, how the Constitution works. I’ve learned how much the government means to me and the country as a whole. I’ve also learned that, in the far future, I’d like to start my own program like We the People because this class has meant so much to me. – Izzy A.

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?” The traits that I learned most due to this we the people experience is that I heavily developed by speaking skills and I have learned to speak my opinion more. Before we the people I was much more quiet and didn’t really like to tell anyone my opinions because I didn’t think they would make a difference. Now I know the value of my opinion and I want to share it to others. – Jonah V.

 “What is the best thing about We the People?”  The best thing about We the People is the knowledge you gain from the curriculum. Before class had started, I knew nothing in regards to our country, especially with its foundations. However, when you dive head first into these subjects, you gain a will to know more. This knowledge is something I wish everyone could receive. That way, we can all move along this virtuous path. Also, We the People is great for the memories you create. I can go on forever about all the people I’ve agreed and disagreed with. Your teammates will become your best friends. The memories you will share are priceless. – Joe C.

 “Describe what State competition was for you.” State competition pretty much took over our lives. I am always ready to accept a challenge, and state was definitely a challenge. Our main goal of state was to beat the Brown County We the People team. Before this year they had never lost a state competition and had been national champions or runner ups for the past several years. I worked really hard all year and I am so happy to get to go and compete in Washington D.C. The competition was so much fun and a memory I am sure I will never forget. State Competition meant so much to me. It represented all of the hard work that we as a class had put in over the school year.  -Kara

 “In your own words describe We the People.” We the People is a government class that prepares you for competition. We the People isn’t about winning, it’s about becoming the best educated generation in the United States. We gain civic knowledge and passions throughout the process of learning our country’s history. We are a family of future presidents, senators, representatives, attorneys, judges, lawyers, and most importantly educated citizens. – Liberty

 “What have learned that has impacted you personally?” Something I have learned that has impacted me is that iron sharpens iron. Being a competitive person I know that nothing fuels you other than a grudge against someone else. Working hard against someone else working hard is the ultimate preparation for this competition. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. – Liberty

“Describe what State competition was for you.” State competition was really and awesome reflection of all of the work we had put in. As Fassold says, “work is love made visible”. We as a class have put in hours after hours of work for state and winning was just such an honorable moment. When we didn’t get called for any wards and they went to announce first, we all just started crying because it hit us that we had done it. In a word, it was amazing. -Makenna A.

 “In your own words describe We the People.” To me, We the People is more than just an advanced civics education class. We the People is a class where we learn to apply our knowledge to unknown questions and learn how to communicate with others. We the People, and I can speak for all of us, helps us understand past events and how they apply to the currents issues that apply. In addition, we all become better civically educated and can help educate others who are not as knowledgeable as us. In conclusion, We the People helps us become better citizens of our country and learn to respect others and their opinions. -Maya F.

“What is your favorite memory?” My favorite memories are when Mr. Fassold read from The Prophet at regionals and state. The sections he’s read from are so relevant to today and have such a deep meaning. One of my favorite lines from the book is “Work is love made visible.” Another memory is when the whole class reads invictus together. We all are the one thing that we can control in life and as it says in the poem, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” -Maya F.

 “What have learned that has impacted you personally?” I have learned how to analyze any article, and pull the bias out to get down to the ‘facts’ or what we need to pull out of the article. I can filter through my media accounts and see the truth. This comes in handy, especially when election are in full swing, and the false news trend is spreading and becoming a bigger issue.  Another thing I have learned is Work is Love made Visible, and that I am the Master of my Fate, and the Captain of my Soul. -Meg G.

 “What have you learned that has impacted you personally?” I have learned how to create strong bonds with the people in my Unit. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know basically anyone in my unit but now we are like a family. I have learned so much from them in just a few months and they have greatly impacted my life. Without We the People, I wouldn’t have been able to get this close with them at all. Stress can either bring people together or tear them apart but with my Unit, stress brought us by each other’s side and encouraged us to support each other. Especially when we had to go last at State!  -Morgan

“What is the best thing about We the People?” One of the best things about it is that it makes us better citizens and more intelligent future voters while also being a very enjoyable class. Not only do the people in We the People classes share great experiences and form bonds, but they also learn about our country’s history and about how the political landscape today can be analyzed. One of the speakers at the Indiana We the People State Competition talked about how the recent 2016 election might have struck fear into the heart of many citizens, but if citizens knew the things that We the People classes teach they would know how to tackle the issues of today with confidence.  You don’t necessarily need talent to be great in this class and competition. Just come in, work as hard as you can, go beyond expectations, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  -Ray

My kids will tell you that my class is a lot of work.  They work hard; not for grades, but for understanding, the promise of competition, their teammates, and intrinsic motivation.  I am beyond proud of them.  They know that they are loved for I tell them that I love them.

We are now moving into a brand new phase for us; preparing for national competition.  I have been mulling over what we need to learn and the list seems daunting; there is so much history we need to uncover through our lens.  We are not a survey class of memorization and rote.  We attack history like an historian; deep studies, analysis, and introspection.  At the same time we must stay abreast of the modern world and consider all through our lens.

Lastly, I read to my kids before Regionals and State from my favorite book, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, the chapter called “Work”.  There is a line in it that goes, “Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy”   My kids work with joy and the work is love made visible.

This year’s team owes a great deal of thanks to my previous teams.  Last year’s team came so close as the State runners-up.  My first year team surprised so many people with their second place finish.  We learned so much together.  Of course the FHS We the People team served as the inspiration to starting a team at the junior high.

I have a treat for those of you that read the previous 3414 words.  Below is my Unit 6 competing in the second round of State.  The video contains the testimony, the follow-up questions, and the judges feedback.  You will see how knowledgeable and poised my 13 and 14 year olds really are.  Enjoy.

Get involved:

Community members throughout Hamilton County and Indiana at large are invited to join the FJHS We the People journey to the Fifth Annual We the People National Invitational by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @FJHSWeThePeople.

Community sponsorship and donations to offset the cost of traveling and competing at the National competition are greatly appreciated. Visit to donate.