Social Education 57(2), 1993, pp. 92
1993 National Council for the Social Studies

Government in Action:A Simulation

Kraig Gustafson*
The Derryfield School
Manchester, New Hampshire
Many students are not interested in the study of history and feel that it is one of their "worst classes." Why do students feel this way? Perhaps instructors are not sufficiently motivated or educated to impart a sense of excitement and appreciation for the subject. Relevancy is another difficult bridge to cross. Often, students do not appreciate the contemporary significance of historical knowledge. They ask questions such as, How is this going to affect my life? Why do I need to know this? This stuff is so boring-why can't we do something exciting?
Even if we can solve this problem, a depth versus coverage debate continues surrounding the content. We need to ask which content choices will benefit students most and how we can determine that the topics we choose today will have long-lasting meaning.

Teachers need to address and solve each of these problems for effective learning to take place. In this article, I do not attempt to suggest reforms of the teacher training curriculum. Instead, I will address and demonstrate some ways that we can teach history so that students are not bored, but challenged-not mystified, but offered clear directives.

In summary, the issues are as follows:

Depth versus breadth Sacrificing depth of study (which promotes understanding of concepts) in order to cover as much material as possible does not promote real learning, just memorization. Covering too little information in-depth may make all knowledge nothing more than a series of unconnected tidbits with no relevance to other events and times (including our own).

Generalized knowledge Curricula and textbooks often try to be everything to everybody and, as a result, end up as not much of anything. Textbooks do, however, usually provide a framework in which larger concepts fit and provide information about related subjects or persons that may add to the topic under study. I use textbooks as supplemental reading.

Personal involvement Depth of study promotes understanding of the issues and struggles behind the names and dates. The advantages of getting students personally involved are twofold. First, generalizations and concepts can be applied to other historical situations and to contemporary examples, allowing students to add abstract examples to their life experiences. When internalized, such abstractions are easily understood, applied, and retained. Second, we do not remember isolated information-we remember information by somehow connecting it to ourselves. Did something similar happen to us? Is that information similar to something we have already heard? Is that point so outrageous that it challenges firmly held tenets? Once individuals connect larger concepts to their own lives, they can then apply those concepts to a variety of situations and a variety of topics.

The Simulation
The following simulation-prepared for use after a unit on the United States Constitution-attempts to correct these inadequacies and solve some other teaching and learning problems. The unit contains instructions for the teacher and numerous handouts for students. Two to three class periods should be sufficient for carrying out this simulation.

This exercise is designed to teach students about the workings of our federal government. It allows students to assume the roles of key members of the three branches of government. It will demonstrate two important concepts: the checks and balances system and the process by which a bill becomes a law. Students will operate this government with complete authority and their evaluation will depend entirely on their adherence to the rules embodied by the Constitution.

Procedure
Teachers may wish to assign students roles. Allowing students to select their own, however, can give them a greater sense of the frustrations and joys of holding those offices. Create name tags in advance for each office. Offices should be broken down as follows: one president, two cabinet members, one vice president, one Speaker of the House, one chief justice, one or two members of the press, one-half of the remaining students to the House, one-third to the Senate, and one-sixth to the Supreme Court. Unassigned players can be appointed to the House, the Senate, or the Supreme Court. An election is probably the best way to determine who assumes the roles of president and vice president.

Distribute the role descriptions to the players. Each student who is assigned or elected to fill the role of an individual should be provided with the appropriate handout. Members of Congress receive a sample bill. Members of the House and Senate may have their own ideas for bills and the teacher should encourage such creativity. Students must, however, follow the rules and procedures that govern their particular institution. Leadership and teamwork are important in this simulation.

Students appointed to the Supreme Court will be overcome with boredom unless they understand their purpose in this simulation. Although they have no cases to hear, they will be responsible for reviewing all bills Congress proposes and laws Congress passes. This slight departure from reality allows the lawmakers to get immediate legal reactions to their work without waiting many years for lawsuits. Teachers should assign the brightest or most imaginative students to the Court.

Finally, this simulation teaches about the various branches of government and other participants in the governmental process. This simulation will produce considerable frustration and distraction-in themselves valuable lessons. Allow students to do anything that is not prohibited by the Constitution. Allow them to hold press conferences and to call joint meetings-give free reign to the students' creativity.

Swear in the Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, and the vice president with the following oath:

I, [name], do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office to which I was elected and will serve to the best of my ability.
The chief justice should administer the following oath to the president:
I, [name], do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States so help me God.
Tell Congress to meet, give them their first bill, and begin. Following are sample handouts for each role.

The President
Your job as president of the United States is to fulfill all of your constitutional duties. The most important of those duties are proposing legislation, writing orders to executive departments, and vetoing or approving bills presented to you.

Read Article II of the Constitution now and familiarize yourself with your functions and duties.

Presidents can be as ambitious or as lazy as they want to be. If you want to make a mark for yourself in history, you must stand for something and not just stand around.

First, some technical matters. You may do anything the Constitution does not prohibit. Use your imagination and recall information about former presidents' behavior. If you choose to veto a bill, you must explain your reasons for doing so and return the bill to the originating branch without signing it. Your signature, on the other hand, indicates your complete approval and requires no comment.

Your constituents are the people of the United States. You must do what is best for them or what they want you to do-these two generally should be the same. Think about this: if you want to get reelected, you must do what is best and hope people will see that you made the right decision before the next election, or you must do what the people want and hope that nothing bad comes of it before the next election.

Best of luck!

The Speaker of the House
Your main function as Speaker of the House is to run House meetings. Make sure that members of Congress present bills in the proper form and language. You might wish to limit debate on issues to a total of five minutes, but the House may decide to extend that time.

All bills originating in the House must have a heading of HR 92-x, where x is the next number in the sequence of bills presented. You have been presented with HR 92-1. All House bills can be amended as the membership desires. You may not participate in any debate; you must remain impartial.

You must sign all bills originating in and passed by the House and then send them to the Senate. All Senate bills sent to the House must be either passed or rejected exactly as they were given to you. Senate bills passed by the House must be sent to the president. If a bill does not pass, it goes nowhere. Do not rename or renumber any of the bills.

Please send a copy of all House bills to the chief justice of the Supreme Court after they are written or changed. Use the Court as a legal resource-you do not want to work hard on something only to have the Court declare it unconstitutional.

Also, please inform the members of your chamber of their function. Let them know they must perform their duties in good faith, with allegiance to the purpose of the U.S. government, and with the knowledge that their decisions will affect millions of people, future generations, and their chances for reelection.

The Vice President
Your main function as vice president is to direct Senate meetings. You are president of the Senate. Make sure that Senators present bills in the proper form and language. You may wish to limit debate on issues to a total of five minutes.

All bills that originate in the Senate must have a heading of S 92-x, where x is the next number in the sequence of bills. You have been presented with S 92-1. Senators can amend all bills as they desire. You may not participate in any debate; you must remain impartial. You may not vote unless there is a tie.

You must sign all bills originating in and passed by the Senate and then send them to the House. All House bills sent to the Senate must be either passed or rejected exactly as they were given to you. House bills passed by the Senate must be sent to the president. If a bill does not pass, it goes nowhere. Do not rename or renumber any of the bills.

Please send a copy of all Senate bills to the chief justice of the Supreme Court after they are written or changed. Use the Court as a legal resource-you do not want to work hard on something the Court might declare unconstitutional.

Also, please inform the members of your chamber of their function. Let them know they must perform their duties in good faith, with allegiance to the purposes of the U.S. government, and with the knowledge that their decisions will affect millions of people, future generations, and their chances for reelection.

The Chief Justice
Your duty as chief justice is to see that the other two branches of government fulfill their constitutional duties and do not abuse their powers. You may have the most difficult job of anyone in this simulation because you must use both the implied and explicit guidelines of the Constitution to test laws and actions for their potential harm against any group now or in the future.

Members of Congress and the executive branch will present you with bills and executive orders for your examination. Test them for constitutionality.

If a party gives you a bill or asks your advice on an action, cooperate with them. If someone asks you to review a law or a bill, make sure that it does not violate any other law or any part of the Constitution. If the Supreme Court decides that a law or a bill is unconstitutional, it cannot go into effect and you should communicate your decision immediately to the person or body that submitted it to you.

Both the House and the Senate have been instructed to send a copy of any bill they write or change to you for approval. Test it as you deem appropriate and return it to the person who gave it to you. This will help alleviate confusion.

Members of the Press
Your job is to report the news. Of course, news will not come up and bite you on the ankle (although it does occasionally) so you will have to dig for the information that your news-hungry audience wants.

As a journalist, you want to provide the most accurate and timely information possible. You probably became a reporter because you love research and the opportunity to inform people of important events. You realize that there exists potential for both great harm and great good from what you do. You can be fined or jailed if you purposely write untrue or exaggerated statements. Think carefully about your mission and your values.

Do not be afraid to sit in on congressional meetings or to ask people for information. At worst, they will say "no"-and sometimes a "no" says a lot!

For this simulation, you will be required to use one of the chalkboards in the room as your newspaper. You must publish at least one story a day, although you may choose to write more. Newspapers, including yours, should report both hard news and opinions (editorials and letters to the editor, for example).

Good luck!

S 92-1
A Bill: Limiting the Amount of Violence on Television
Because the amount of violence shown on free (commercial) television has been increasing over the past few years, and

Because studies by the University of Greater Manhattan and the Frisco Institute have shown evidence that links violent behavior in teenagers to violence on television, and

Because witnesses in this very chamber have testified that the above-mentioned link causes harm,

The Congress of the United States hereby proposes the following be enacted by the Federal Communications Commission and all commercial television networks and stations:

(1) No more than five (5) acts of violence shall be shown during any thirty (30) minute program and no more than nine (9) acts of violence shall be shown during any sixty (60) minute program. Programs longer than one hour will be allowed to show four (4) violent acts per thirty (30) minutes.

(2) Acts on television must not be overly graphic.

(3) The lead-in before a program airs must contain a warning if the program contains violent content.

(4) Any station or network that violates this law will be fined $100,000 for every station on which they show the program.

Enacted this day: ___________________, 1992

President of the Senate _________________________

Speaker of the House __________________________

President of the United States:

___ approveX ______________________________

___ VETO Reasons:

HR 92-1
A Bill: Additional Funding for AIDS Research
Because Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is becoming increasingly common among all groups of citizens, and

Because many people think that insufficient funds are available for AIDS research in the president's current budget, and

Because other less important programs and less severe needs receive more funds from the federal government,

The Congress of the United States enacts the following:

(1) The amount of funds available for AIDS research shall be doubled in this and for future years over present levels.

(2) The President of the United States shall instruct the Health and Human Services Department and the Centers for Disease Control to begin to double the current number of research contracts and experiments.

Enacted this day: ___________________, 1992

Speaker of the House __________________________

President of the Senate _________________________

President of the United States:

___ approveX ______________________________

___ VETO Reasons:

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