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Teaching American Political Institutions Using Role-playing Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  6 coalitions, while staking out policy positions that will give them an electoral advantage in the next election. Interest groups exhibit widely varying degrees of political sophistication and interact with many different aspects of the political system (e.g., lobbying bureaucratic agencies during the rule-making process, testifying before committees, lobbying individual members of Congress, and engaging in electioneering to influence the results of elections). The bureaucracy and the courts, though underappreciated, are essential actors in the policy process from start to finish. The Executive Office of the President walks a fine line between serving the individual interests of the President and respecting the statutory mandates of Congress. And the president (and most governors) wear several institutional hats that are often in conflict with one another (e.g., head of state, party leader, and chief policy maker). Understanding the ways in which these institutions manage all of their internal conflicts is critical for understanding why the American political system works (or fails to work) as it does. All of these examples highlight the importance of simulations in teachings students about the internal processes of institutions, but there is one additional dimension of institutions that role-playing simulations are ideally suited to address. Political scientists often use the term ―institution‖ loosely to refer to any enduring set of formal and informal rules and procedures, but institutions often have an organizational dimension, as well. Thus, the institution of Congress comprises two primary organizations (i.e., the House of Representatives and the Senate), in addition to numerous supporting organizations (e.g., individual member offices, the office of legislative counsel, the sergeants at arms of both chambers, and so on). Likewise, the institution of the presidency comprises the president, his personal staff, the many agencies of the Executive Office of the President, and, under an expansive definition, the agencies of the bureaucracy. By

Authors: Gonzales, Angelo.
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coalitions, while staking out policy positions that will give them an electoral advantage in the
next election. Interest groups exhibit widely varying degrees of political sophistication and
interact with many different aspects of the political system (e.g., lobbying bureaucratic agencies
during the rule-making process, testifying before committees, lobbying individual members of
Congress, and engaging in electioneering to influence the results of elections). The bureaucracy
and the courts, though underappreciated, are essential actors in the policy process from start to
finish. The Executive Office of the President walks a fine line between serving the individual
interests of the President and respecting the statutory mandates of Congress. And the president
(and most governors) wear several institutional hats that are often in conflict with one another
(e.g., head of state, party leader, and chief policy maker). Understanding the ways in which
these institutions manage all of their internal conflicts is critical for understanding why the
American political system works (or fails to work) as it does.
All of these examples highlight the importance of simulations in teachings students about
the internal processes of institutions, but there is one additional dimension of institutions that
role-playing simulations are ideally suited to address. Political scientists often use the term
―institution‖ loosely to refer to any enduring set of formal and informal rules and procedures, but
institutions often have an organizational dimension, as well. Thus, the institution of Congress
comprises two primary organizations (i.e., the House of Representatives and the Senate), in
addition to numerous supporting organizations (e.g., individual member offices, the office of
legislative counsel, the sergeants at arms of both chambers, and so on). Likewise, the institution
of the presidency comprises the president, his personal staff, the many agencies of the Executive
Office of the President, and, under an expansive definition, the agencies of the bureaucracy. By


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