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The 1st Amendment? The 2nd? Students Pick Which Is Key in the Bill of Rights

Theme picture for Rendell Center 2019 Citizenship Challenge. Students answered an essay question on the most important amendment in the Bill of Rights.
Teacher Ann Friedlander’s team at Merion Elementary School.

Fourth- and fifth-grade finalists in this year’s Citizenship Challenge essay competition weighed in on which Amendment in the Bill of Rights is the most important and which continues to exert the greatest impact on American life.

The students from Philadelphia-area schools gathered at the National Constitution Center on Dec. 12, 2019, for the PECO Citizenship Challenge, the sixth iteration of the annual challenge presented by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement, in collaboration with the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

There the students presented their essays through skits and songs, answering this year’s question: Which of the 10 Amendments in the Bill of Rights is the most important and which continues to have the greatest impact?

As you might expect, some students chose the First Amendment, protecting freedom of religion, speech, the press, and the rights to assemble and petition the government. Others opted for the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Still others presented the case for the Fourth Amendment, and protection against unreasonable search and seizure; the Fifth Amendment and the protection against self-incrimination and right to due process; the Sixth Amendment and the right to speedy and public trial; and even the Ninth Amendment, with its protection of unenumerated rights, those that are not listed in the Constitution.

The winners were:

  • First place: Buckingham Elementary School, Central Bucks School District, Linda Raitt’s 5th grade class.
  • Second place: Merion Elementary School, Lower Merion School District, Ann Friedlander’s 5th grade class.
  • Third place (tie): Perelman Jewish Day School, Wynnewood, Pa., Mindy Civan and Sean Burg’s 5th grade class;
    Anne Frank Elementary School, Philadelphia School District, Christine Delasandro’s 5th grade class.

The judges were Rendell Center co-founders Edward G. Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania, and Judge Marjorie O. Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, along with Liz Murphy, VP of Governmental and External Affairs, PECO Energy; and Sarah Galbally, Director of Policy, Philadelphia School District.

The Citizenship Challenge in Pittsburgh

For the second year, the Rendell Center also sponsored an essay competition in the Pittsburgh area, along with the Senator John Heinz History Center. Fourth- and fifth-graders in the Pittsburgh area also were challenged to choose which part of the Bill of Rights was the most important and continues to exert the most impact.

The judges in Pittsburgh were former Gov. Rendell, Judge Rendell, and David Malone, chairman and CEO of Gateway Financial.

The winners in Pittsburgh were:

  • First place: McKnight Elementary School, North Allegheny School District, Patrick Frank’s 5th grade class.
  • Second place: Marshal Elementary School, North Allegheny School District, James Voland’s 4th grade class.
  • Third place: Central Elementary School, Hampton Township School District, Denise Kahler’s 4th grade class

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