Bringing the Hill Home: Teaching Undergraduates about Congress
by Thomas Ringenberg, Rockhurst University
The Congressional Fellowship provides scholars of Congress with the opportunity for hands on experience in the exciting atmosphere of Capitol Hill. This real-world experience offers valuable insight for the academic study of the Congress, but also important lessons for effective classroom teaching. Rockhurst University’s Tom Ringenberg offers practical suggestions for assignments and activities for the undergraduate classroom from his fellowship year. Providing students an understanding of the “textbook” Congress is important. But preparing the future constituents, advocates, hill staffers, or even the future members of Congress to operate within the Capitol environment is essential. In this essay, Ringenberg provides a few concrete tips for instructors to help students understand the nature of congressional work, the styles and methods of modern representation, and resources available for bringing these lessons into the classroom. But one need not teach Congress to find these tips beneficial. These insights are applicable to anyone interested in Congress, and any instructors who value civic education, concise writing, and practical lessons for the classroom.