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East Prairie fifth graders take an honorary seat in the Senate

Friday, October 7, 2005

(Photo)
Sen. Jason Crowell discusses policies with fifth graders at A.J. Martin Elementary School in East Prairie.
EAST PRAIRIE -- Fifth graders-turned-honorary senators at A.J. Martin Elementary received a glimpse into the life of a politician Thursday morning when Sen. Jason Crowell paid them a visit.

Crowell's plan to visit 21 schools in the 27th Senate District kicked off at the East Prairie school. Over the next few months Crowell is visiting with fourth, fifth and sixth grade students to promote lifetime learning and to bring civics to life.

Although Crowell is no stranger to visiting schools, Thursday marked the first time he has visited a school outside the Cape Girardeau school district, he said.

"It's very neat to talk to the students, and I don't want to lecture and preach to them, but rather talk with them and discuss how important it is to stay in school," Crowell said.

To show the students the value of a fair debate, Crowell gave them a discussion topic they could relate to, and the students then shared with Crowell their views on the issue.

After swearing in the students as "honorary senators," Crowell proceeded to conduct a session similar to the Missouri Senate.

"Being a state senator, you have a responsibility," Crowell told the group of 80 students. "You can't talk when someone else is talking. You have to wait your turn because you don't want to be rude."

Crowell called the "session" to order and proposed the topic of discussion: whether the state should make a law for all fifth graders to have five hours of homework each night. Then, just as they do in the Missouri Senate, the discussion began.

"As a senator, you rise up and share with all the other senators whether this is good or bad and why," Crowell said.

One child stood up and said, "I think it's bad because it would take too long to do and you wouldn't have time to do anything else after school." Another student didn't think the law was fair because the students wouldn't be able to have any fun.

Crowell noted the Senate can also make amendments to a bill and proposed a change: "What if all sixth graders had to have five hours of homework each night?" he asked.

Hands shot up from children wanting to speak their minds. Many said they thought it was a bad idea because they were going to be sixth graders next year.

"It just wouldn't be fair," one student claimed.

And the Senate doesn't want to pass laws that would be unfair, Crowell told the students.

"Sometimes even if it's a good idea today, you have to make sure it's a good idea tomorrow," Crowell pointed out. "The political process is a lot of give and take and lots of talking."

Ultimately, the students had to decide whether to make the bill a law, and then they voted. The majority ruled, and the students decided not to pass the bill into a law.

"In the end, I work for you. You are my bosses," Crowell told the students. "I'm just Jason."

Throughout his visit, Crowell encouraged the students to never quit school -- a message he said that can't be repeated too much.

"I come from a family of educators. I know the value of an education, and it's always good to step in the classroom and visit with the students," Crowell said.

Prior to Crowell's visit, the students watched a short video explaining how the government works.

"Sen. Crowell gave the students an idea of how a bill becomes a law, and it's good when politicians visit because sometimes they're people the children may see on the news," said fifth grade teacher Laura Moore.

Moore commended Crowell for grabbing the students' attention.

Katie Wallace, 10, said she was definitely interested in what Crowell had to say.

"It helped me understand what they do at the White House or in Jefferson City," Katie said about Crowell's visit.

Students liked how Crowell was nice and how he put them in the middle of the discussion, Katie recalled after Crowell left.

"A lot of people are still talking about it," she said.

Other local schools Crowell plans to visit are Chaffee Elementary on Oct. 13, Scott County Central Elementary on Nov. 1 and Warren Hearnes Elementary at a date to be determined.