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Editor's Voice: A valuable civics lesson

Posted 4/30/13

Middletown Mayor Robert Reid, a social studies teacher in the Middletown Area School District, began an interesting program years ago in which students shadowed borough officials to learn how local government works. It ended after Reid retired – …

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Editor's Voice: A valuable civics lesson

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Nine students from Middletown Area High School benefitted from a real-life civics lesson, acting as mayor, borough solicitor and Borough Council members during a mock council meeting on Monday, April 15.

They brought a fictitious issue to the table – a proposed $1 million community center, complete with a library, movie theater, sports complex, restaurant, chapel and Laundromat – and argued its merits and flaws. How would it be funded? Where would it be built? And would such a government-owned, instead of privately-owned, facility be “communist?’’

The proposal failed initially by a 4-2 vote, to the dismay of student-mayor Megan Martz. “We wanted it to pass,’’ explained Reid, who participated in the program, because Martz “was going to veto it’’ – a comment that drew laughter from the audience that had come to watch council’s regular meeting that night.

But a do-over produced a 4-2 vote to approve the project, Martz’ veto and a lack of votes on the student council to override her veto.

What it also produced is a valuable lesson on how government operates. The real-life experience, even if the decisions ultimately don’t count, likely will galvanize the civics lesson it provides in the mind of the students who participated.

“I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know before,’’ said Katlyn Flasher, a student who served as council president during the program. Middletowners, take note: She hopes to be council president – for real – someday.

“You’ve got to get the kids involved. If you don’t get the kids involved, you’re not going to have anything,” said Council President Christopher McNamara, an opinion with which we agree.

Kudos to the borough and school district for reviving this program. Nine students – and perhaps a few others who sat in the audience that night – learned how government works, and benefitted as a result.

If the students’ reaction afterward was any indication, the program was more than a learning experience – it was inspirational to students as well. “They texted me and called me on the phone afterwards to tell me how energized they were,’’ said Jodi Sessa, their teacher.

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