Students in Assistant Professor Mike Brady’s “Politics of Congress” course are spending the semester as different people. It’s part of their coursework to assume the identity of a current U.S. senator and author legislation, arguing for issues through the lens of the Republican or Democratic politician they’ve been assigned. By semester’s end, they’ll be participating in a full-on simulation of the Senate floor every time they enter the classroom.
The idea, says Brady, is to help students learn the procedures and politics of the Senate through action, as opposed to simply reading about them in a book. The tactic also encourages students to look at politics from all sides, especially when they must act on issues from a perspective that differs from their own. And it helps to bring in some real politicians for insight.
On Tuesday (Sept. 17) Barry Goldwater Jr., a former Republican member of the House of Representatives; and John Hall, a former Democratic member of the House, joined the class for a Q and A session and some back-and-forth ribbing on the issues. (There was a brief moment when Goldwater accused the Democrats of overspending, and Hall jokingly began digging for cash in Goldwater’s suit jacket pocket.)
Every two years, Denison welcomes two members of Congress for a few days of class visits and conversations with students. The visits, sponsored by the Richard G. Lugar Program for Politics and Public Service (named in honor of former Senator Dick Lugar ’54 and directed by Associate Professor of Political Science Andy Katz), are organized through The United States Association of Former Members of Congress and its Congress to Campus program.
In addition to their time with Brady’s class, Hall and Goldwater visited with students in “American Political Behavior and Institutions,” “Election Reform,” and “Foreign Policy Formulation” classes. They also attended a reception for faculty, staff, and students, during which Hall, a former professional musician who founded the ’70s pop band Orleans, picked up a guitar for an impromptu performance.