Student Essay Contest on the United States Constitution
Grand Prize: $1,000 and publication
Deadline: Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Hosted by Concordia University Irvine's
Center for Civics Education
Department of History and Political Thought
We are pleased to announce the first Annual Essay Contest on the United States Constitution for the purpose of engaging CUI students with the United States Constitution, its underlying principles and purposes as well as its role as “the supreme law of the land.” The author of the first-place essay will receive $1000 and publication of the essay or excerpts on various websites and publications. The author of the second-place essay will receive $500.
- The Grand Prize for the best essay is $1000 U.S.
- Second-place will receive $500 U.S.
- The entire essay and/or excerpts of the winning essay will be published online and/or in hard copy publications.
How to Enter:
Contestants may choose one of the three following questions. Choose only one question.
Submit questions to Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham at [email protected]
Essay Contest Questions
1. Freedom of Speech. The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” While those freedoms have been jealously guarded by the American people, the most prolific form of communication in modern America is the “digital public square,” created, owned, and operated by private technology companies not restrained by the guarantees of the First Amendment. They have the power to censor content and even decide who may participate on their platforms, limiting access to those of whom they approve. Critics complain such private monopoly power over the “digital public square” is equivalent to government suppression of speech.
Should government impose restrictions on information technology companies in order to assure equal access to the “digital public square?” If not, why not? If so, could such restrictions simply transfer access and censorship issues from the tech companies to the government?
2. Freedom to Assemble. The First Amendment prohibits government from abridging “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The courts have recognized certain restrictions on public assemblies such as requiring the time, place, and manner of organized assemblies in order to protect public safety. The courts have also disallowed such restrictions when used to prohibit assemblies by disfavored or unpopular groups. At times, people have “assembled” illegally, such as participating in non-violent sit-ins or engaging in demonstrations which may eventually become violent, injurious to participants or by-standers, or destructive of property. Such activities have been justified by their supporters because “no other course of action was available - they had no choice.”
Acknowledging that the First Amendment guarantees only “peaceable” assembly, how would you advise disaffected protestors to forego violence and destruction of property and use peaceable and constitutional means to secure their goals? Be specific.
3. Freedom of Religion. The First Amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” For centuries European countries fought wars with religion playing a critical role, whether their adversaries were Muslims or Christians of another denomination. Many of America’s earliest immigrants fled from religious persecution, yet eventually established “official” churches in their own colonies. Although most States disestablished their official state-supported churches during the period of the Revolutionary War, until modern times, religious differences in the United States were primarily among various denominations of Christianity. With increased immigration from Asia and the Middle East, religious diversity has increased to include religions other than Christianity, often based on competing social norms, including controversial issues such as family relationships, the role of women, and abortion. Nevertheless, religion has not been a cause of violent disruptions as have issues pertaining to slavery, race relations, and even American involvement in foreign wars.
What effect, if any, have the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom had on the ability of the United States to accommodate a diversity of religions without resort to the persecution and violence which plagued Europe for centuries? Consider the Bill of Rights without such guarantees.
Deadline: All essays must be received by 11:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. Submit your essay, responding to one of the three questions above to Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham at [email protected].
Eligibility: All currently enrolled CUI undergraduate students are eligible to participate. Submissions must include the author’s:
Class (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
By submitting an essay, you are declaring that it is an original work. Primary and secondary sources may be included if properly attributed, but the essay must be your own original work.
By submitting an essay, you are giving your consent to have the essay and/or excerpts published either online or in hard copy publications.
Each essay must be double-spaced between 1000 – 1250 words (4 – 5 pages) and submitted in Times New Roman, 12-pont font.
All essays must be submitted in English.
Upon receipt, each essay will be assigned a number. Judges will not know the identity of authors until final judging has been completed.
Contest judges will include CUI faculty representing the Departments English and History and Political Thought and at least one public member with expertise in subjects relevant to the essay questions.
Submit your essay, responding to one of the three questions above to Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham at [email protected].