SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA—Almost 5,000 13- and 14-year-olds will be in court this month. No, they aren’t on trial for truancy or unruly behavior; in fact, many of them will be serving as attorneys. April is the month for mock trial for all the Challenge B students in Classical Conversations, the world’s largest classical homeschool organization.
Mock trial has long been an extracurricular staple of prep schools—and now is a fixture in homeschool communities—in which students participate in rehearsed courtroom trials to learn about the legal system in a competitive manner. Classical Conversations uses mock trial competition to teach skills in research, grammar, writing, rhetoric, public speaking, debate and drama.
“I believe the most important task for a Christian—besides sharing the good news of Jesus Christ—is to ensure justice in our communities,” said Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations. “We are to uphold the law to those who don’t have it written on their own hearts, and we are to protect the defenseless, the orphans and widows. This is what our good—but imperfect—legal system was created to do.”
This year’s mock trial case is a departure from CC tradition in that it is a civil case in which the burden of proof is far lower than in a criminal case. A high-school pizza delivery boy who likes to ride his bike on the sidewalk and take shortcuts is suing the local music idol for injuries received when the musician struck him with his car while conducting a phone interview and attempting to evade a paparazzo.
All the roles are still there: judge, plaintiff’s attorney, defense attorney, defendant, witnesses and law enforcement officers. CC’s mock trial program uses adults (usually local judges or attorneys) to play the part of the trial judge and the jury, and all the other roles are filled by Challenge B students. All the necessary documents: Witness statements, law enforcement reports, pertinent state laws and evidence exhibits are all provided for the students.
These eighth-grade students have spent the entire spring semester experiencing all three stages of the classical model: Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric. They spent weeks learning the facts of the case and many more weeks wrestling with those facts, trying to determine what facts were missing, finding errors in logic and building a case both for and against the defendant.
Classical Conversations® is a classical education resource used by homeschoolers in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries. CC now has more than 105,000 students enrolled in its tutoring programs, which are provided by more than 2,400 CC communities. CC provides resources, guidance and a community for a Christian homeschool curriculum using classical education in three developmental stages: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric.
Leigh Bortins started Classical Conversations in 1997. The family-owned company is headquartered in Southern Pines, North Carolina. For more information, visit www.classicalconversations.com.