Teaching the U.S. Senate, Ted Kennedy Style

Anyone who knows Eduflack knows that, professionally, I was greatly shaped by my experiences as a U.S. Senate staffer. I was fortunate to work for some tremendous leaders and statesmen, the sort of public officials that we seem to be in short supply of these days. Not only did they teach me about the Senate, legislative procedure, and the appropriations process, but they also taught me about service and priorities and doing what was right (and not necessarily what was easy).

It helps that I am the son of a political scientist, my dad is a presidential historian by trade actually. As a young child, I remember my father being part of the development of the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Getting to see that library when it opened, I remember writing a very passionate letter to my Senator at the time, Ted Kennedy, telling him how much I enjoyed my time at the JFK Library. And I remember my joy when he wrote back. Not only did I get a lovely typed letter on U.S. Senate letterhead, but It included a handwritten note at the bottom, letting me know he had a son that shared a first name with me. The letter was framed soon after it arrived, and I still have that framed letter with me today.

So it’s clear how my interests in politics and the legislative process were both started and fed over the years. But how do we do the same for other students? Next week, many of our high school students will have the opportunity to vote for the first time. But as recent surveys have show, too many young people don’t see the value in the electoral process and certainly don’t hold any faith in government and the impact it can have on its lives.

Fortunately, there are some that don’t react to such positions with a shrug of the shoulder and a “what are ya gonna do?” response. Next spring, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate will officially open its doors (on March 31, actually). Building on the enormous legacy of Ted Kennedy, the Institute is committed to making the U.S. Senate relevant to learners of all ages, while using technology to better engage incoming generations of voters.

It’ll offer experiences that provide first-hand techniques of being a senator, everything from negotiation to bill drafting to debate to voting. It’ll even offer a tech platform so visitors can simulate being a “senator.”

With 2014 elections looming, and with attention already shifting to 2016 presidential elections, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute is offering a really cool opportunity for educators now. The good folks over at the Institute are offering access to its Senate Immersion Module now, where educators can test the three-hour experience of living the Senate life. They will even get to do it in the Institute’s replica of the U.S. Senate chamber, the cornerstone of the Institute. You can check out the Module here.

Those educators who might have interest in taking the Senate Immersion Module out for a spin or who may want to schedule a field trip can reach out to the Institute at SIMSCHEDULE@EMKINSTITUTE.ORG.

Classroom instruction. Ed tech. Experiential learning. U.S. Senate. Politics. Ted Kennedy. Something new and shiny. And even a chance to drop by the JFK Library after the fact. How can you go wrong?

And if you aren’t able to take advantage of the preview, plan to visit the Institute when it opens. As a huge fan of presidential libraries, as one who played a small part in helping make the Robert C. Byrd Library a reality, and as someone who still cherishes his Ted Kennedy letter, I’ll be there.


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