Once a month during the school year, attorneys at Locks Law Firm visit a classroom at Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP), a Philadelphia public school, to lead a lesson on civics, legal systems and civic participation. This endeavor is in conjunction with the Advancing Civics Education (A.C.E.) program, a program launched by the Philadelphia Bar Association in partnership with public schools in Philadelphia to provide supplemental civics education to public school students.
The lesson plans explore the core tenets that make up the foundation of our Constitutional legal system, such as fundamental principles of citizenship, democracy and dispute resolution throughout the course of history. Lessons typically consist of framing questions followed by an activity such as a mock trial or other role playing in which the students play the various parts. The activity is followed by a discussion of each scenario presented.
One lesson plan presented in 2017 focused on the origins of legal power and authority by looking at divine law in early human cultures. The framing questions were: what is the source of governmental power; and, how is the exercise of power justified. The scenarios compared and contrasted source of authority in Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia. The students acted out short mock arguments on a similar fact scenario (a man stealing a loaf of bread from a baker) presented under three different legal ancient regimes. Following the skits, a discussion about the source of law in each regime took place and the students voted on which regime they felt was the most fair. The students then discussed these themes in the context of the modern American criminal justice system, with students engaging in a spirited discussion.
Why do the attorneys at Locks Law Firm feel that participation in the A.C.E. program is so valuable? It is our belief that an understanding of civics, legal systems and civic participation is vital to the success of future generations. Teaching students citizens’ rights and responsibilities within their community, state, country and the world encourages them and energizes them to become interested and engaged in government and civil life. A recent article on npr.com supports the idea that civics education encourages students to engage in their community and eventually become more informed voters. In an effort to engage in our community in Philadelphia, we at Locks Law Firm hope to contribute to the next generation of engaged and informed members of the community.