Friday, October 11, 2013

Rainbow Elementary lesson on government shows the true colors of lawmaking

Posted by John Peck in General

Rainbow Elementary sixth graders got a sense of Washington gridlock in a mock Congress that pitted the “Boys” party against the “Girls” party sparring over a controversial issue.

Our President and Congress could learn from them: The kids at least conducted business.

The school’s enrichment team used Congress as a model to teach students how bills move through the political process. The girls and boys groups separated to discuss the merits of the so-called “Tim Tebow” bill which would allow private and home-schooled children to participate on athletics teams in public schools. That was actually a real bill that was pushed unsuccessfully in the Alabama Legislature.


The girls were scripted to be for the bill. The boys against. Adult facilitators led student discussions to stimulate thought and form “talking” points for debate. Adult lobbyists from both sides were brought in to press their case.

What ensued was an excellent lesson on the rules of engagement, a House and a Senate body, the committee process, persuasion by lobbyists, filibusters, cloture votes to stop filibusters, amendments and the role of majority and minority whips in counting votes. The students offered thoughtful, insightful comments on both sides of the issue.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler and School board members Ranae Bartlett and Connie Spears invited a representative from the Alabama High School Athletic Association to advocate AHSAA’s position on the bill. One of the school board members posed as a lobbyist for Tebow bill supporters.

In the photo, majority leader Michael Guthrie with the Boys party addresses the full assembly after a rowdy floor debate led by the minority Girls party, which was led by Alex Meyer. A filibuster was under way near the end of the school day after an amendment that would have expanded participation to other school activities failed.

During key votes, some students clearly struggled over whether to vote with their party or vote their conviction. Just like in Washington.

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