“My students took on issues ranging from adoption to eliminating the penny to current hot button political issues like abortion, hate speech and the death penalty,” Hook said. “With our mock House reflecting the current U.S. House of Representatives, the Republicans held the majority in all of my classes, and the students who were assigned to be Democrats learned the hard side of majority rule.”
Maggie Whaley, who served as the Republican Party’s majority leader in her class, was surprised to see just how much control the majority has in a given legislative session.
“The Speaker of the House has so much power, and the minority party doesn’t get much say at all,” Whaley said.
When it was time to vote on a bill, either by a standing or roll call vote, it was painfully obvious how divided the two parties were when it came to certain issues. There was, however, some reaching across the aisle.
“The biggest shock to me was that the class started off really working together, but ran into some of the partisan gridlock more and more as the activity went on just like our real government. But they had a lot of bipartisan support on certain issues which was very encouraging,” Hook said. “As a teacher it was very interesting to watch the simulation, which outside of a few procedural nudges from me, was entirely student led.”
Jada Medina was surprised to see her classmates fully invest in the classroom activity.
“This class is always one for debate, but I didn’t expect them to take things so seriously,” Medina said. “They really took these issues to heart. They’ve were really passionate about it.”
Hook hopes that level of involvement and interest will benefit students when it comes to passing a citizenship test, which will be a new graduation requirement for Kentucky students beginning with the 2018-19 school year. It also provides him with an opportunity to bring his content area to life for students.
“In social studies classes we are often at a disadvantage because kids can't put their hands physically on history. In science they can do experiments, in math there are equations to solve, but in history I can't dig up Stonewall Jackson and ask him about his thoughts on leaving the Union,” Hook said. “Activities like this have my students live out the entire process of how a bill becomes a law. It allows them to see how difficult a process it is, and the advantages and disadvantages of our two-party system. I also hope to encourage civic activism in my students by allowing them to see how much of an impact government can have on our lives.”
Whaley said she gained a new understanding of legislative processes.
“I really like going through the parliamentary procedures because I had never been taught that before,” Whaley said. “It was really cool to see how Congress works.”