WILLIAMSBURG -- More than 50 high school students are spending the Labor Day weekend back in the 18th century trying to draft a U.S. Constitution.
The students, who won essay contests in their home states, are debating the same issues that divided delegates to the 1787 constitutional convention and seeing if they come up with the same solutions.
"We are only giving them three days to do something that brilliant human beings did over a period of months," said Fredric I. Lederer, a College of William and Mary law professor who is directing the mock convention in Colonial Williamsburg.
There are other differences, too. The students will not debate slavery, which was allowed under the original Constitution.
"Slavery is so totally abhorrent to a contemporary American citizen that it would serve no useful purpose for someone to stand up and pretend to be arguing for the institution itself," Lederer said Friday. "That's the only issue that's out."
Lederer said he also expected the students to include more rights for women because more than half of the delegates are female.
The idea for a mock convention for students across the country grew out of a similar convention held last March in Williamsburg for Virginia high school students.
Those students came up with a different Constitution in several respects. They made English the national language, expanded the U.S. Supreme Court to 13 members and set a mandatory retirement age for justices.
Students attending the national mock convention disagreed Friday on whether the original document needed many changes.
"What are you going to change? It's worked," said Austin Nichols, 15, of Washington. "There were mistakes that they made, but they were understandable."
"I think they should have concentrated on having the people of the United States equal," said Eric Kutz, 15, of Grand Forks, N.D.
"Everybody was repressed except for the rich and they had to be men," said Jill Herzog, 18, of Rapelje, Mont.