ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lawyer Ron Taylor wanted to show fourth and fifth graders at E.G. Ross Elementary the importance of the U.S. Constitution and the rights afforded within it.
What better way to do that than to show them what society was like before constitutional rights?
Dressed in costume and armed with cookies, Taylor did just that Wednesday in a presentation he called “King George III and the Royal Cookie Taker.”
“You’re going to learn today what your rights are,” Taylor told the kids in the E.G. Ross gym.
The lawyer, who played King George III, talked about the right to trial, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and other constitutional guarantees.
At one point, a “subject” – played by fifth grader Haylee Nava – was found with royal cookies in her pocket, and she was put “behind bars” without a trial.
“This is what it was like before the Constitution. I, King George the Third, was the law,” he said.
“Does Haylee have the right to remain silent? A right to a trial? For a lawyer?” he asked.
“No!” the elementary students yelled.
Another subject was taken by pretend guards for insulting the king in public – a juxtaposition with Americans’ freedom of speech. And two more students were sent to “jail” for practicing a religion outside the Church of England – an example of the importance of modern-day freedom of religion.
“You get the idea of what the world was like,” Taylor said.
Taylor then brought kids into present-day society with a mock trial for the “cookie taker.”
One student acted as a district attorney and another as the alleged cookie taker’s lawyer. After testimony, the gym full of jurors weighed in and Nava was found not guilty.
“You just took part in a constitutional right! A trial!” Taylor said.
Roughly 100 students watched the demonstration, according to principal Amanda Stavig.
Stavig said students have been learning about the Constitution, and Taylor’s visit was a nice change of pace.
“It’s very important to do interactive learning. We’d probably be doing worksheets or going online without this,” she said.
Taylor told the Journal this was his seventh year doing Constitution presentations. He said he typically goes to two to three schools a year.
He said the project is part of an effort by the State Bar of New Mexico, a professional organization for attorneys, to educate students on the Constitution, with lawyers participating across the city.