Ben Gibson 9/21/2017
A group of Middleboro High School students attended the Senate Immersion Module at the EMK Institute in Boston to experience the process in which senators adjourn. The junior Senators were to attempt to pass a “bill” reforming immigration.
The pathway leading into the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston, is encompassed by small obelisks representing the 50 states, and their year of entry into the union. After dropping off any bags or jackets into bins for safe keeping, they were ushered into a real size replica of the U.S. Senate Chamber. The chamber seemed smaller than it should be, yet the overseers of the program assured the students it was a very accurate representation of the actual Senate Chamber in D.C.. Despite the initial impression of its size, the room was splendid. It felt regal with the marble walls, the vaulted ceiling, and the distinguished desks and chairs that filled the room.
Once every student found their seat, instructions were to pick up a tablet resting on their desks and fill in their names as well as snap a selfie, thus creating locking in their “senate seat”. Once everyone was satisfied with their (albeit some goofy) self portraits, they each discovered their political party they would be feigning to be aligned with for the duration of the program, as well as that party’s key interests and priorities. (Students were asked to set aside their personal beliefs and convictions for the purposes of the course.) The democratic party, for example, had an interest in maintaining civil Liberties, and increasing government regulation and economic mobility.
After learning their party, they were randomly chosen a state to be senator of, and then their state’s interests were added to the list you had to proceed. Vermont, for example, had an interest in maintaining civil liberties, protecting the environment, and aiding farming.
Finally, students were told the senator’s personal interests that they were to roleplay for the rest of the program, as well as a short bio. One example of a senator’s interests would be maintaining civil liberties, raising jobs, and raising taxes. One senator also had a love for Batman so thorough, he managed to be in four of the “Dark Knight” films.
Once the students learned what they did and did not support, the assembly divided into 4 groups to collaborate on individual parts of the bill that they would be to try to pass at the end of the day.
Two clusters of students viewed several proposed provisions for the bill, and were able to interview an expert in the field about the impact it would have on each of their assigned priorities. Once the senators were all experts themselves, they voted for one to be included, based on their party’s, state’s, and personal interests and needs.
Next, each respective party gathered and discussed amendments for the provision. After two were selected from a list, they were able to learn what the other party was likely going to vote for and their reasoning.
After a brief discussion amongst themselves again in case a mind was changed, all Republicans and Democrats converged to present their proposed amendments to the collective group. The group discussed the propositions and voted on which two would complement the provision the best.
They returned to the Chamber and met again with the full group. There they voted in a new head of Homeland Security. They also experienced a filibuster significantly reduced in time to a limit of three minutes, as opposed to the day long filibuster found in the real senate.
It finally came down to the final vote to either pass the bill and all that they had done that day, or stop it, and impede all the progress made that day.
The junior Senators passed their first Bill of legislature upon the conclusion of the forum, and returned to school to continue their education to make them even better senators in the future.