Following an introduction to and discussion of the US Constitution’s Preamble, the girls were given a scenario in which their local Congressman was considering a proposed bill to ban smoking in all public areas. The girls were divided into various interest groups and had to consider their position on the bill and present an argument for or against passage to present to their Congressman at a Town Hall meeting. After all the presentations, the Congressman would decide either to vote yes or no on the bill and explain his/her position.
One group represented the tobacco industry, another represented citizens in favor of better health for all, a third represented individual rights, a fourth represented a smoke-free nation, and the final group acted as the Congressman and his/her staff. Essentially, the groups had to decide if an individual right or the common welfare was more important in this scenario. By the end, all four classes chose to vote yes to ban smoking in public places as it benefitted the common good, but two chose to compromise!
What was particularly interesting was the struggle some had in setting aside their personal opinions if they were assigned to a group with which they didn’t agree. Some surprised themselves with how they could appreciate both sides–the need for individuals to have the right to make choices, even if they were bad for their health, or the need to remain employed to feed one’s family vs. the responsibility to consider what is best for all.
Overall, it was a fun learning experience for the students, and it set the stage for further discussions about the Bill of Rights and later amendments to the Constitution.