By Nora Lowe
66% of young Democrats and 64% of young Republicans express worry about the ethical standing of America’s government as of 2019, according to TIME Magazine. In lieu of this statistic, and seeing as the 2020 President election proves to be a politically turbulent period, it seems very appropriate that the AP Government course was introduced to BHHS this year. This course helps students acquire the educational background needed for them to formulate their own opinions about politics and make conscientious decisions as citizens who will soon be of voting age.
Keeping this need to produce knowledgeable voters in mind, Ms. Laden, the social studies chairperson, felt that “it was important for students to have the option of exploring our American government more deeply.” This effort is especially significant because it seems that politics is currently driving society apart rather than creating a sense of pride in our democracy. Ms. Laden elaborates that the AP government course “inspires them to get involved in the political process to make it even better.” One of the unique characteristics of AP government is that it engages students with information that they directly need to understand politics today.
Recently, Ms. Laden explains that the students worked with seventh-graders “as mentors [to them] during their Congress in Session unit at the middle school. There, they helped students craft legislative bills, served as expert witnesses, and finally, acted as the Senate to cast their votes on the proposed bills.” This activity was a hands-on way for both the seniors and HCC students to learn about a topic. Mr. Andriello coordinated this project and organized its logistics, and he describes that “The basic layout was the seventh-graders picked topics, they worked in groups, and the seniors did research and presented them with the information through ‘briefing books.’ The topics included, but were not limited to: animal rights, environmental issues (e.g. global warming), gun control, surveillance, etc. There were 49 different total bills.”
An important aspect of bill-creating that Mr. Andriello wanted the seventh-graders to understand is that it is a tedious process for bills to become laws, and not all of them pass. He said that “We did a lobbying day where they had to answer questions in committee, so we went from 49 bills down to 16 bills. From there, they voted on 8 bills that went to the final congress. Out of those, only 3 passed the house and the senate.”
Thomas Grgurovic, a senior in AP Government, noticed that the seventh-grade participants seemed “engaged and genuinely interested in the project.” Also, he predicts that the activity generated an interest in the subject, and he felt “there will be more interest in the AP Government class itself as well.” Senior Alison Lehman concurred, saying she was surprised by how “eager the kids were to learn about and solve the issues that are facing the country,” and that it gives her hope that “we will have a new generation that is civically involved and engaged in the political process.”
Overall, Mr. Andriello commented that “It was a very cool experience seeing seniors sit with seventh-graders in an academic sense and work with them, and they worked hard.” The AP Government course is new to BHHS this year, but is clearly having an impact on not only the seniors, but is inspiring the next generation of voters to take interest in the legislative process.