Senate simulation successfully stimulates students

January 24, 2011 — by Deborah Soung

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next,” Abraham Lincoln once said. So what better way to prepare a generation to improve the future government than allow them to be in one?

During the first two weeks back from winter break, government teachers Mike Davey and Kirk Abe provided their classes with this chance by conducting a Senate simulation to further students’ understanding of how the government works. Davey was continuing an ongoing government simulation which started at the beginning of the year and included mock presidential elections.

In the simulation, students were assigned positions as either the president or a senator. There was one president for each class, and the rest of the senators received a slip mentioning what state they represented, the number of years of service, and the stance of the state on the bill topics. The senators had roles in their parties, such as party leader, minority whips and pro tempore, according to Abe.

“A lot of [the roles in senate] are actually based on real senators, so in a way, indirectly, [students] are learning about the current senators who are actually making decisions,” Abe said.

The president influenced the future of bills in the simulation because he or she had the role of making speeches throughout the simulations as senators addressed, mended and marked up bills.

“A president can not like a bill, and that should affect the how political parties and the senate deal with the bill,” Abe said.

Senior William Tang, from Davey’s class, enjoyed playing the role of president during the simulation because he was “able to influence [the senators] based on [his] own preferences.”

In the simulation, four different “pressures” affected how senators made decisions about bills: individual stances on the topic of the bill, assigned state’s views on the bills, the political party’s official platform stance on the topics of the bills, and the president’s speeches.

“There are four different kinds of things [the students] have to take into consideration, and that’s why I like this simulation,” Abe said. “They can’t just say, ‘Oh, I’m going to make this decision because I like it.’ They have to think about the home state they’re representing, what their party thinks and what the president mentions in his speeches.”

Davey and Abe collaborated on ideas for the bills and laws that students discussed in the simulation.

“I try to come up with topics relevant to now, like the Dream Act or Bush’s tax cuts,” Abe said. “They’re the ones that [the government] just dealt with or are dealing with now, so they’re relevant to the students.”

As of how the simulation affected students, Tang said, “[the simulation] solidified my slightly liberal views.”

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