Students Debate Bills in Model Congress

By Cailan Yu ’16

In this year’s 44th annual Model Congress, students underwent a simulation of congress and fiercely competed with each other to see whose law would pass and withstand scrutiny. Many enjoyed the experience and felt they learned a lot.

“You get to learn how Congress actually works and see the varying viewpoints people have on different bills,” said Katherine Tsvetkov ’16.

Students remained after school on April 24 to research their topics and begin brainstorming. These topics varied from educational reforms to preserving the earth, but they all focused on improving the world we live in. After, the two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, adjourned to return the following day and put their laws to the test.

Bagels, donuts, and orange juice were arranged neatly across lunch tables the next morning. Groggy students trickled into school at 8 a.m. to munch on the complimentary breakfast ordered by Ms. Peters, and finished working on their bills.         

After a lengthy debate with members of one’s own house to determine the best bills that were made, students entered the cafeteria once more to the sight of pizza boxes stacked high on the lunch tables. During the lunch break, many groups continued to develop and improve their bills. They would be put to the test once more when both houses convened to choose the best four bills. In total, there were about fifty laws created by each house, but almost all were shot down.

Despite the turmoil of emotions Model Congress created, it was extremely beneficial to the understanding of how laws are passed in real life.

“Model Congress gives students the opportunity to do research into real issues affecting Americans today,” said Mr. Chicosfsky, a social studies teacher. “Students work through the problems and issues that they’re uncovering by using good academic techniques to discuss the possible solutions.”

When both houses finally convened, it was a vicious battle to see who would be able to pass their laws. It required a majority vote of at least half the room for a bill to be passed. It was extremely difficult because other houses probed the bills until it found a weak spot and shot down the proposal.

“Model Congress allows students to discover what it takes for a bill to become a law. Through this process, they begin to understand why it’s so difficult for Congress in Washington D.C. to get meaningful bills passed,” said Mr. Haberman, a social studies teacher.

A few lucky bills survived the scrutiny, such as one created by the Department of Homeland Security. It focused on improving airport security in the states. It proposed to incorporate high tech security into United States airports like those in Israel, which has one of the safest airports in the world, and implement security programs that don’t racially profile people.   

“I was in a well-organized and prepared house which was able to pull through despite the short amount of time we had to present the bill,” said Tsvetkov ’16.                 

Since people are more environmentally conscious nowadays, another bill that was passed was by the Department of Natural Resources. The bill planned to turn waste into energy by taking garbage from landfills and burning it to create energy that could be used in homes for electricity.    

“Our bill was fairly easy to pass,” said Mei Ling Peng ’17. “We were already prepared for the questions that could be asked and had answers for all of them.”

The final law that was passed proposed to increase the number of field trips in schools so that students can apply their learning into real life experiences. Many students were for the idea of going on a field trip.

“My favorite part of Model Congress was witnessing the incredible enthusiasm that many Midwood high school students exhibited, and seeing them show interest in attempting to make this country better,” said Mr. Haberman.

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