Mock Trial: The Fate of America
By Lydia Mangual
Recently, the eighth grade students had an educational and interesting experience. They felt a certain amount of responsibility, more than usual: The Mock Trial. Just like a real court case, they tried to defend their side of the court and bring the jury to their favor. The mock trial represented what would have probably happened if the Revolutionary War was replaced with a court case.
The British and the colonists had to explain why they should win the case. Mr. Shaeffer, the middle school Social Studies teacher, assigned students roles on either side; British or patriot. The different roles were ranging from cross examiner, to direct examiner, opening/closing statement lawyer, witnesses, and jury. That included two sets of each on both side. Several classes conducted the case, and this project happens annually.
Students had to create their own arguments based on their roles. Information from class and outside sources were used. Their different teams worked together to make the case. They only had a slight bit of help from their teacher. The rest is student run and student operated.
Colonists were trying to explain that without representation the British shouldn’t be leading them, while the British have said that without them America would crumble as it needs to be connect with the country that created it. The results of the mock trial could range from the colonists staying with Britain and paying back the money the British used to fight the ‘Seven Years War’, and the money lost in the form of tea during the ‘Boston Tea Party’.
The colonists could also win. If they won, they could choose to become a totally separate country, or the students could choose to get to the halfway point where colonists become (nearly) a self governing country but still trading or interacting with Britain, or the patriots can choose to stay with Britain and be rid from all their taxes and have representation. The patriots had many options of what they wanted out of the case because without the Revolutionary War, there would be so many options. They weren’t limited to one outcome.
Mock trials also were quite intense in some of the classes with some friends becoming fixed on winning against their friend who were on the other side. Although for the most part this was all in good fun.
We had a variation of winners between classes this year. The M/W class ended up with the British winning, the T/R 1st hour ended up with the two teams tying, and the T/R class after lunch ended up with the Patriots winning. “I am so proud of my side. We won Independence for our country. Go patriots!” says Mackenzie Meyerhofer, cross-examiner for the patriots in the T/R class after lunch (they won).
Although the people who lost ended up enjoying it, “It was difficult but I ended up enjoying it even if we lost..” comments Vasily Yevseyev, eighth grader who was the cross examiner for the patriots as well for the M/W class. It seems whether you won or you lost, most people seem to be happy with the fact that they were able to experience the mock trial. They most likely liked their ability to argue with the other group and trying to come up with a win for the court case.
On the other hand, in the same trial the other side of the case was elated at the results. “It was awesome because we won. I’m glad that the jury did justice and legitimately voted and wasn’t biased. They didn’t just vote for their friends or the side they helped.” says Myla Speidel who played Thomas Hutchinson, a British loyalist.
When asked about the outcome, the class that tied was bittersweet, “It was pretty good. We all tied 50/50.” says Gabrielle Crandall, Patriot Thomas Jefferson in the mock trial.
All in all it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it was a great learning opportunity for everyone and it was a entertaining way to teach about the American history along with teaching other skills we will need throughout our life.