“Law: an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community.”– Saint Thomas Aquinas, Patron Saint of Students
Written by Carter Watkinson, Student Journalist
At Jean Vanier Catholic High School in Collingwood, students in the Grade 12 politics and law classes look forward to participating in various seminars about world issues related to a wide variety of topics. The two classes, run by Mr. Condon, have a few weeks to prepare for the seminars which any of his students may attend.
Groups of one to two students become leaders, prepare a short quiz as well as a list of ten discussion questions for their peers. After a short reading to brief themselves for the discussion, attendees engage in an open dialogue in which they are encouraged to discuss the ten questions laid out by the student leaders.
The cases involved in the seminar may include the trials of O.J. Simpson, Nelson Mandela, Al Capone and more.
The questions may range from as simple as “Who did it?” to complex discussion of the cultural impact of the case. Students often go off topic, delving into deep conversations. This is encouraged, as it results in critical thinking about the issue. The result of these discussions, besides a participation mark of course, is that students leave the room with a variety of new skills and knowledge. Students gain insight into the opinions of others, and learn things about themselves. They learn how to ask and answer complex legal and political questions.
Ask the students what they think of each case, and you may just hear a different answer from each one. They have to think critically, yet be open to the opinions of others. The student leaders have a unique opportunity as well. They are in charge of not only preparing the questions, but moderating and joining in on the discussion. Every student gets a chance to be a leader, and many have risen to the challenge with great success. The discussion questions are interesting and insightful, and students always leave with something to think about.
“You learn a lot because everyone has their own opinions – it’s a lot more engaging than a normal lesson,” said Ethan P. in Grade 12.