Denison Students Get to Be Political in Mock Congress
Posted: December 13, 2001
Note:The following article appeared in the Dec. 13 issue of The Newark Advocate. It is copyrighted and appears here with permission.
For most college students, a final exam means endless hours of pre-exam studying and a grueling hours-long test. But for one class of students at Denison University, their semester-end test meant drafting bills, debating their classmates and passing legislation.
But on Wednesday morning, those weeks of work culminated in a mock debate where the students explained, argued and voted on several proposed bills. At times, the debate grew quite heated, which was uncomfortable for student Andrew Hupp.
"All of a sudden, we're walking into this room and we're arguing with people we'd never argue with," the Democratic representative said.
In fact, the majority of students would actually support each of the proposed bills, some of which called for an increased use of solar energy in schools and more organic farming.
But student Kelly McKay, who acted as head of the Republican party, found herself in a difficult situation Wednesday as she was forced to argue against passing a bill she had created.
"That makes it a lot more challenging, but that also makes you a stronger writer and thinker," she said. "It's nice to look forward to a final rather than dread it."
Kaplan fills the role of Speaker of the House during the debates, which he's been running in his class for the past nine years. He said the mock setup teaches students how to solve real-world problems in a real-world setting.
"They get a really good understanding of how to communicate ideas and how important it is to understand the details of an idea," he said. "Students come in having that very general view, and they come out of the class having a very specific view."
While the debate was intimidating for some of the students, that didn't prevent Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council, who sat in on the class, from being impressed.
"These students are getting an up-close-and-personal glimpse of the politics and the policies of environmental issues," he said. "And these are certainly issues in which you can't have good policies without good politics."
Fortunately for some of the students, good grades aren't the only rewards that may be coming their way.
"These students have some really innovative ideas," Shaner said. I'm going to see if I can get some of these students as interns in our office. There are some sharp, young leaders in here."
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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