Students will get a feel for what it was like during the constitutional convention of 1787
The Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise at North Dakota State University is holding its first Constitutional Convention Recreation on Feb. 26 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Badlands Room of the Memorial Union The event will allow students to play the parts of the nations founding fathers.
Kali Christianson, the Outreach Specialist for Agribusiness and Applied Economics, talked about what the event will offer to students.
“We see the purpose (of the event) as a chance for students to engage in civil discourse, a chance to grapple with these big ideas that were important at the founding of our country, but are actually really important today,” Christianson said.
“There’s still issues that we’re talking about and debating a lot and trying to decide did they get it right back then and do we want to make changes?” Christianson said.
During the recreation, students will be able to discuss topics that will cause debates but will have the chance to hear everyone out. Christianson noted that students will be able to, “Argue in a way that’s productive and that actually gets you somewhere and helps you to think about other perspectives in a way that’s civil and not just ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong.'”
Everyone in attendance will be given the role of a delegate that was at the convention in 1787. The students will also get information about what position the delegate had and what state they represented.
“Obviously we know a lot about some of the people and others we don’t know as much about,” Christianson said. “In particular, we know a lot about the people who got their way.”
Some of the “winners” as Christianson called them were James Madison and Alexander Hamilton since history remembers them. For the other delegates who aren’t well known, Christianson said students, “…Will have to be more creative about developing out those ideas and maybe in 2020, they’ll be the winners of the debate.”
Each delegate is part of one of four factions that are similar to political parties. Everybody in a faction will work together during the recreation to push for certain systems.
Christianson said she believes that the event is a creative way to learn about the nation’s history. She said that you can learn about what delegates like James Madison believed by reading a book, but it’s not the same. “…That teaches you something, but not as much as actually having to have that argument, to have that discussion and say how did we end up with the senate we have?”
Though they won’t be able to recreate the entire constitutional convention, there will be four categories discussed during the event. Students will focus on how the delegates set up the House of Representatives, how they set up the Senate, what kind of executive and presidency they wanted and the question of slavery.
“I think its easy to think these were issues that happened a long time ago and now we just say ‘the constitution says’, but they had to come up with those decisions.”Kali Christianson, Outreach Specialist for Agribusiness and Applied Economics
“Students should be interested in this because those are questions we’re having now,” Christianson said. She mentioned that some of the questions being asked today are about the electoral college, how we select our representatives in the House and in the Senate and how we treat small states and large states.
The question of slavery is still a big topic today as well. “The issue of slavery obviously was dealt with in a big way then, but it didn’t go away it came back and it’s still an issue. A question we’re still dealing with now is what is the way to treat people of different levels of representation in our country?”
“I think it’s easy to think these were issues that happened a long time ago and now we just say ‘the constitution says,’ but they had to come up with those decisions,” Christianson said.
“I think it’s cool for students to have a chance to say with everything that we know now since the U.S. is not 13 colonies, but 50 states with men and women and diverse populations, would we set the same foundations? I think that’s an interesting question and hopefully, students think so too.”
Christianson notices that students are interested in the event and learning about government as she said, “We’re in an election year.”
“I think that students are interested in the institutional level, not just the bigger, broader questions of what is democracy, how did we end up with the country we have today, how did we end up with the problems we have today, but also what makes this a great country. I think a lot of people are interested in those questions in 2020.”
She also believes students are wanting to become more involved in government as well. “I think on the topic of government and those issues, people are interested, but I also think that broadly people are interested in what others have to say.”
“With all those conversations happening in our world, even students who aren’t planning on working in political offices are much more engaged with the questions of government and society than we maybe use to think they were.”
Christianson said that with Twitter anyone can become a part of conversations they may not have became involved in before.
Christianson saw that a lot of people from various majors signed up for the event along with international students. She encouraged everyone to sign-up saying, “We want as many students from different backgrounds and perspectives to participate. It will be a more interesting event the more diverse voices that are participating.”
She went on to say that even students who may not know a lot about the constitution or don’t think it pertains to their major can be involved. “The purpose of the event is to learn through doing,” Christianson added.
“For us, it’s about what they learned through the experience of having to listen and having to have those conversations with those students from different ideas.”
In the future, Christianson said they would like to have the recreation event held on Constitution Day in September.
Students interested in recreating the Constitutional Convention can register for the event by going to the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise website and looking under the event category.