Seeing civics in a whole new light: RHS students propose bills to benefit the country

by Adam Nimitz Contributing writer
Rusk High School student Annie Beathard presents her bill to U.S. History instructor Adam Nimitz. 

Courtesy photo Rusk High School student Annie Beathard presents her bill to U.S. History instructor Adam Nimitz. Courtesy photo

With so much partisan politics in Washington these days, social studies teachers at Rush High School made it their mission to help students better understand the U.S. government system, and the checks that the country’s Framers put into the Constitution to prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful.

Last week, Rusk High School students pretended they were U.S. Congressmen. They were asked to pro-pose a bill that they thought would benefit America. After each student (or congressperson) presented his bill to the class, they were instructed to get signatures from their fellow peers.
If a student could get a majority of students (50% plus 1) to go along with the proposal, then it was off to the “White House,” where their Social Studies teacher, a.k.a. the “President,” either signed the bill into law or vetoed it.
For those bills that were vetoed, the student had the opportunity to override the “president” with addition-al signatures of two-thirds of the class.
Junior Ella Morton declared the assignment “undoubtedly a favorite!
“It was a really unique experience to place myself in a position of authority and think of an issue that I wanted to solve. Being able to not only present my own bill, but to share my opinion and vote on others, was definitely a fun way to better understand our government,” she said.

Other proposals by the students included often interesting (and sometimes entertaining!) bills. In the end, some were “signed into law,” while others were vetoed.

Among the proposed bills were those that sought:

• (To) increase public school teachers’ salaries to a minimum of 15% of their current pay – Lexsey

• To make 9/11 a federal holiday – Hayden

• To have all police officers go through extensive training. The Police Academy will extend to one year for all officers – Jackson

• (Make it) illegal for the government to have the power of eminent domain, even with just compensa-tion. If the private land owner does not accept the terms of the agreement, they cannot be forced to give up their property – Ella

• (For) people at the age of 70 and above (to) not be permitted to have a driver's license – Pedro

• (To) abolish daylight savings time for all of America – Sam

• (That) all murderers and predators will not be jailed. Instead, every one of them will receive the death penalty – Matthew

• (For) all standardized testing to be abolished – Madalynn

• (For) everyone (to) be required to have a photo ID and proof of a social security number to vote for lo-cal, state and federal elections. They will also need proof of a billing address – Jared

• (For) all states will be required to get rid of the death penalty – Savannah

• (For) Rhode Island (to) have a wall constructed around it. All murderers, pedofiles and hardcore crimi-nals will be dropped on to Rhode Island to fight to the death. It will be made available to watch on televi-sion – Nathaniel

• (For) the terms for U.S. congressmen (to) be limited to no more than three terms – Aden

• (For) a bleeding management course accredited by the American Red Cross be required for graduation for all high school students – Kriz

• (For) the government (to) allocate 2.2 billion dollars for funding of the border wall project – John

• (That) after enlisted soldiers work three years in the military, their pay will automatically increase from the base pay of $30,000 per year to $34,500 per year, which is an increase of 15% – Hope

• (For) people who are admitted to the sex offender registry (to) be required to get sterilized, and if they have children, (to have) those kids taken away from them – Verity

• (For) the only people (to) be allowed to vote in elections are males with a clean record who own land – Abraham

Adam Nimitz is a U.S. history teacher for Rusk ISD. The Social Studies Department assigns the project annually to juniors as a way to make lessons on US government come to life.