What students learn
“Get Out of the Way” is our reflection piece about the benefits and challenges of simulations.
“Simulating the Legislative Process with LegSim” is a very informative article by longtime LegSim users, Professors Bethany Blackstone and Elizabeth Oldmixon
For another perspective, a student in a college level US Congress class wrote this and distributed it to the class. He agreed to let us share it.
“Since its the last day of class, I thought I’d write up all the things I learned from this simulation. Its definitely been a lot of fun and I learned a lot from it! I’d love to hear what other things you guys have learned from it as well.
“You are GOING to be blindsided. It is going to look like everything is going great on your bill, right up until the point that its not, and than it will be too late. Never assume that a lack of objections to your bill means support for your bill. In fact, if you are expecting opposition and you don’t get it initially, that is EXTREMELY bad. It doesn’t mean you’ve convinced them, it just means that they haven’t bothered to speak out against it. Make sure you find out who’s in favor and who’s against before it gets to late, or your bill will die before you even know what happened.
“Competing bills are just that. Competing. Your opponents will vote No on both, but your supporters will only vote YES on one of them. Make every effort to combine bills whenever possible, otherwise their yeas will be your bill’s nays, and you will both end up losing.
“Do not underestimate just how difficult it is to get a bill passed. Especially anything that is even remotely controversial or different. Don’t get cocky and assume your bill will be different.
“No idea, no matter how good it is will ever trump the benefit of having allies. Remember you don’t just need people to agree with you, you need them to fight for you. Always put in the extra effort to address any concerns they have, and never ever take their support for granted. Otherwise you will lose it.
“Facts and figures are very good at reinforcing the support you already have, and can turn potential allies into strong allies. Remember, it isn’t enough to just convince people that it’s a good idea. You have to back it up as well.
“But, while hard facts and figures can strengthen an argument, they do not replace one. By themselves, they will not overcome preconceptions, nor will they will change people’s minds. Stories and explanations that are interesting and memorable (and true!), as well as appeals to their own concerns and shared beliefs, will go a lot further towards getting them to open up to your idea.
“Your peers are not stupid but they are busy. Always assume that your bill is getting minimal attention, and never ever expect them to convince themselves.
“Cooler heads can prevail, but only if you take the time to cool off. Don’t get caught up in the heat of the argument, and instead focus on coming up with a well thought out response.
“It is far more likely that someone does not know about your issue than that they don’t care about it. People make their decisions based on what they know, and you will likely have more success bringing up the issues they were not aware of than trying to downplay the importance of the ones they do.
“It is extremely difficult to change someone’s mind once its been made up. Last minute appeals will only work on the remaining undecided, but otherwise plan on on your vote being decided before it gets to the floor. Put in the extra effort to make sure its going to go your way. And remember, your opposition is not going to seek you out!
“New ideas are very hard to push through, but old ideas are very easy to reuse. Try to spin anything new as a twist on older concept, and avoid coming off as too radical. You want something that seems both practical and different.
“It does not matter how well you’ve thought your bill through. It only matters how well THEY’ve thought your bill through. Politics is short sighted by nature, and considerably more attention is going to be paid to the NOW rather than the LATER. You can push something with short term gain and long term loss, but you cannot push something with short term loss even if it has strong long term gain. Always make sure you can explain why your bill is good now, and how it will help with the immediate concerns people are having, or you will have a much harder time convincing people to support it.
“People will generally choose a bad solution over no solution. Try to come up with a better alternative instead of fighting against the current one.
“Do everything you possibly can to get discussion on your bill going BEFORE it comes to a vote. Do not assume that mearly hearing your idea will convince them. The more leadway you have to address their concerns before they vote on it, the better chance your bill will have of succeeding.