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Judge-Student Dialogue At FHS – QNS.com

Judge-Student Dialogue At FHS

Alan Ward, a 16-year-old junior at Flushing High School met his first judge recently. The setting was the school library where 40 students taking law courses listened intently to a judge and an attorney outline a "dialogue of freedom.)
It was Law Day at Flushing High, an event sponsored by The American Bar Assoc. and featuring Queens County Housing Court Judge Margaret P. McGowan, herself a graduate of the school.
"I learned a lot from the judge about our government," Ward said. "We cant take our rights for granted. If we lose them we may never get them back.
Orlando Velez, 15, was also impressed by the 90-minute lecture and dialogue conducted by McGowan.
The dialogue between the court officials and the students was a lively one.
Flushing High Schools assistant principal Laura Spadacini, who heads up the law studies at the school, said that she felt students had learned some significant aspects of the U.S. legal justice system.
Vivian Luu, 15, agreed with. Spadacini.
"We always seem to take our freedoms for granted in this country and thats dangerous," she said.
McGowan teamed up with an attorney, Amie Nemeth in conducting the class. She raised the question of American culture.
"What films best reflect this culture," Nemeth asked?
"Coming to America," one student blurted out to a roar of laughter. The Eddie Murphy film was shot in Queens.
Other student selections included "To Kill A Mockingbird, The Patriot and The Brady Bunch.
The consequences of 9/11 drew a number of responses from students. They debated the implications of government issuance of national ID cards.
Judge McGowan cautioned the students that unless there is "balance"" the country could lose vital freedoms.
"How would you feel if you had to show your passport every time you checked into a U.S. hotel,"? she asked. Thats what happens overseas."
The issue of "Big Brother" looking over your shoulder concerned some students.
"How many surveillance cameras are operated by public and private agencies?" McGowan wondered.
"Quite a few, Id guess," a student replied.
McGowan responded, "more than just a few."
The discussion turned to terrorism and students disagreed on government crackdowns of the press during war time.
"Are we at war"? one student asked..
"Well we have troops in Afghanistan.. So Id call it a war."
Racial profiling in the wake of 9/11 drew a thumbs down during the dialogue..
"How would you feel if there was an Arab family on your plane?" McGowan asked..
"Its just plain wrong," a student replied.
The Queens students agreed that the borough was a "melting pot" and that the influx of immigrants greatly strengthened the borough in many ways.
The "Dialogue of Freedom" is the brainchild of U.S.. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and The America Bar Assoc.
"The whole purpose here," Kennedy said, "is to focus on the first principles on which we are united and that democracy is not a threat, but a promise and isnt dangerous."
The dialogues are going on around the country and the Bar Assoc. has singled out Flushing High School for the program because of its law project.
As part of the national program there was a Law Day Classroom Contest.. Entries were invited and classrooms were asked to prepare lists of books, moves and events in history that captures what America means to students.
Entry deadline is May 10 and results will be posted on the ABAs web site at www.abnet.org.. on May 20.
The ABA is making materials available to a broad audience for school audiences and parents of small children

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