• Read the entire Declaration of Independence.  Which of the "grievances" seem most serious to you?  Which seem less serious? 

• The Declaration of Independence is silent on what rights are included in the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  What in your view should be included?  Make your own list.

• You are the editor of a local newspaper in Boston in 1776.  Write an editorial either supporting or opposing separation from Great Britain

• Would people today sign a petition featuring the preamble to the Declaration of Independence and part of the Bill of Rights?  Would they recognize where the language comes from?  Why don't you find out?  Print out the petition, ask up to 112 people to sign, and let us know the results!

What Happened When I Asked My Classmates to Sign a Petition

by Allison Frankel

I am a high school senior.  After reading the activity about getting signatures on a petition that combines parts of the Declaration of Independence and First Amendment, I decided to try it out for myself.  I got some interesting results.

Most people in my school I talked to about signing the petition recognized that the language came from an historical document, but didn't know which one.  Many thought it was the Constitution.  A class of juniors asked me if I was planning a revolution. 

It was really hard to get the first signature.  Most people were nervous about putting down their address and phone number.   They didn't want an organization to pester them with phone calls.  

A teacher of mine was the first to sign.  After he signed, most of his class followed suit.  Everyone pretty much followed the crowd.  Two people in the first class refused to sign.  One claimed it was a trick.  The other said there was no point in signing because we already have a Declaration of Independence.

I discovered that underclassmen were more willing to sign than seniors.  People who were politically active and recognized the language were more likely to refuse!  Multiple members of the Mock Trial team asked if I had altered the documents.  One person even looped up the Declaration of Independence on the Internet to cross-reference it.  He ended up putting down his name, but not his phone number or address.

I really learned a lot about the makeup of my student body, and the fear of dissent.  Why don't you try it too?  It definitely brightens up the school day.  Then let me know your results on my Facebook blog – Ask Allison, where you can talk about student rights, the Constitution, and any other current events on your mind.  If you don't have a Facebook account, get one today – it's free.  See you soon!