No matter what they choose to do in life, the freedom to do it unencumbered by government restrictions is bsolutely essential, Larry Burton tells his students at Jefferson Junior High School in Kearns.

Monday, Burton was presented the Liberty Bell Award of the Young Lawyers Section, Utah State Bar, for his effective teaching of American principles.In 23 years of teaching, Burton has reached an estimated 4,000 students with his message that America's way of doing things isn't perfect, but it's the best possible way.

He involves students in activities that bring the Constitution to life - a constitutional convention every year, for instance. Students are assigned states to represent, making them acquainted with the varying interests of large states vs. small states; northern states vs. southern states.

"They make proposals, debate them and vote," he told the Deseret News. "When they get done and compare their constitution with the Constitution we have, I'm amazed at how similar they are."

The students tend to see things through modern eyes. They are more concerned with women's rights ("They'd have no problem with a woman president.") and they would have abolished slavery well before its time, he said.

When he does a unit on the American revolution, the struggle for independence comes alive as every student is involved in the debate, Burton said. Some take the colonial point of view, others the English. Parents are invited to attend the final debates, and Burton's school competes against others in Granite District as they address the 2,000 questions they are given on the revolution.

Burton's team hasn't come in first - yet - but has come in second twice. "You ought to see how quick and how good they are," he justifiably boasts. He believes the subjects he teaches are so vital they make his classes the "most important of the day."