Virginia law now requires local agencies to accept text messages to 911, thanks to a bill crafted by four Centreville High School students as part of their U.S. government class.
There is often a perceived gap between the “ivory tower” of academia and the “real world.” The U.S. government class builds concrete application into students’ study of civics and government. It bridges the gap between classroom and real world application. As such it is enormously empowering to the students. Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture researchers have shown that a thick moral culture is developed best from hands-on experience. “‘Thick’ moral reasoning and discourse is not abstract, but concrete; bounded by the history, tradition, and the practices of lived experience in particular communities.” This program matches these characteristics.
Each year, students in the Northern Virginia school work in pairs to identify problems and craft legislation to solve them. For the past dozen years, Centerville government teachers have select the best proposals and forwarded them to Sen. George L. Barker, from Alexandria who introduces the legislation on behalf of students, The Washington Post reports.
This year, two groups of students banded together after coming up with the same idea to make 911 accessible by text, and they then lobbied lawmakers to turn their idea into reality. Student Daniel Strauch told the news site he wasn’t very politically involved until he started working on the project.
“It definitely has inspired me and changed how I feel about my government,” he said.
Fellow senior Arko Mazumder said the experience of tracking the legislation through the General Assembly and testifying at committees was eye-opening, and helped to improve his public speaking skills.
“I’m seeing it all unfold in such a spectacular way,” Mazumder said.
Strauch and Mazumder partnered with students Thu Le and Rodolfo Faccini on the 911 texting bill, which Barker told the Post could make a big difference in the lives of people living with hearing impairments.
The bill, which Baker said was simple and affordable, easily cleared both the Senate and House before Gov. Ralph Northam signed the measure into law last month.
The Post reports Centreville students have successfully ushered in other laws over the years, as well, including a requirement for seat belts for children, and increased penalties for texting while driving.
Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students will find information, strategies and lesson plans at the UK’s The Jubilee Centre.