Letters From Texas elementary school student project: an introduction in engaging in the legislative process

Hi kids! This website is usually for grown-ups interested in politics and government, but we here at Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters thought it would be fun to turn our attention to smart elementary school kids like you. Your parents and teachers have probably told you that part of being a good citizen is to pay attention to, and participate in, what your state government officials do to represent you!

Today’s topic: participating in the state legislative process. This fun project will encourage you to form your own opinion on a real issue being considered right now, let key legislators know what you think, and actively participate in the process. This will be fun!

Here’s a real-world situation that you can actually participate in: the legislative proposal that would ban text messaging while driving.

You see, many Texas legislators, led by State Representative Tom Craddick and State Senator Judith Zaffirini, believe that text messaging while driving should not be permitted. Supporters of the measure say that it’s very very bad, because a driver who is text messaging pays less attention to the road, and could cause a bad thing. Opponents of the proposal often agree that text messaging while driving isn’t a good idea, but also say that they’re tired of government telling them what they can and can’t do on so many fronts, and that some things should just be left to common sense

Extra credit: look up “libertarian.” You’ll read about examples of these people. Many of them are smoking what is called “weed.”

Assignment 1: What is your opinion about the text messaging while driving proposal? Tell us in one paragraph what you think, and why!

But merely having an opinion isn’t usually enough for full participation in your representative government – did you know that you can also affect how a proposal will read, and what the resulting law will require of good citizens like you? You can! Legislators have policy staff, and part of their job is to talk to good citizens just like you, and listen to your opinions! So you could actually call the offices of the authors of a proposal, and/or the legislator who represents your own neighborhood, and tell them what you think!

Here’s something to think about: text messaging while driving isn’t the only dangerous thing that a driver could be doing that prevents him from being a safe driver. There are many things that could distract a driver. Here’s one you might not be familiar with – it’s called “road head.”

In case that term is unfamiliar to you, have you ever been sitting in class, and you get very very sleepy after lunch, and your teacher is being extra-boring, and you could hardly stay awake? Remember as you sat in class fighting sleep, your head started getting heavy and drooping, only to jerk back up? Well, if you had been driving at the time, it would be called road head! I bet you couldn’t pay much attention to what your teacher was saying when you got that tired, could you? Can you imagine how dangerous it would be if you were driving? Road head is more common than you think. In fact, I bet you’ve been riding in a car, especially at night, and have noticed the silhouette of a head bobbing up and down in the car driving in front of you, haven’t you? That person was getting road head – they’re very sleepy and should not be driving!

In fact, you could go ask your dad right now if he’s ever gotten road head while driving – he might be surprised that you know about that!

textingIf you agree that a driver getting road head is even more dangerous than text messaging while driving, you could even call legislators’ offices and suggest that they amend the bill, insisting that they add prohibiting road head to the list of things that would be illegal! Remember – those legislators have policy staff whose job it is to listen to the opinions of good citizens, especially smart kids like you!

But be careful! A clever policy staffer might try to tell you that road head is already illegal, because it would fall under the already-existing rule against reckless driving. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and you can just reply “how is that different from texting while driving – isn’t that reckless too, so it’s already illegal?” They’ll have to acknowledge that you have a point, and then they’ll know how smart you are!

Assignment 2: call Representative Craddick’s office, and tell them that if they want to outlaw text messaging while driving, you think they should also outlaw road head. His policy staff is always very nice and polite to kids like you, and you’ll have a friendly conversation!

Extra credit: here’s a fun fact about Representative Craddick – even though his first name is “Tom,” and even though everybody knows that “Dick” is a nickname for “Richard,” lots and lots of people, mostly socialist Obama-loving kid bloggers, used to call Representative Craddick “Dick.” It’s a mystery worth asking about, and his staff would probably welcome the opportunity to tell you the fun story! So when you call, right after you tell Representative Craddick’s staff that he should outlaw road head, you can also ask how he got to be a Dick. It will make the conversation more fun for everybody!

Assignment 3: call Senator Zaffirini’s office too, because she’s the other legislative leader on this bill. Just like your conversation with Representative Craddick’s office, you can suggest that they add outlawing road head to the proposal!

Extra credit: here’s a fun fact about Senator Zaffirini and her office – they love to start working every morning very very early, much earlier than just about any other office in your state capitol! There might be an interesting reason why, so right after you tell Senator Zaffirini’s staff member that she should outlaw road head, you can ask the staff member why he comes so early!

Kids, this will be great! After you’ve finished with these assignments, next show-and-tell day, you can raise your hand, and you can tell the whole class that you’ve done all the research and have a big report on the dangers of road head. If your teacher seems startled, it’s probably because she’s so impressed that you took the time to educate yourself and participate in the legislative process!

Please stay tuned for future elementary school curriculum topics from Letters From Texas! The next lesson, coming soon: how to help out your teachers by safely and efficiently testing out your school’s fire alarm!

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