Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski held a town hall-style meeting with 11th grade students in Advanced Placement U.S. History on April 16. The conversation broadcasted through Zoom gave students the ability to ask questions about topics of concern to them.
The first portion of the town hall focused on COVID-19 and the current pandemic situation. Brianna Cagan said, “The most impactful part was how Congressman Malinowski talked about Congress' plans [to prevent] the spread of the Coronavirus. It was good to hear what was going to happen first hand and not skewed by any third party like a news outlet.”
New Jersey has the second highest Coronavirus fatalities in the US, so Malinowski speaking on the pandemic was both interesting and reassuring for students. For Cagan, who aspires to work in politics, it was important to hear what a politician’s career is like in unforeseen situations.
The second portion of the town hall focused on government and student-generated questions. Instead of listening to the congressman give a speech, the class asked questions making them feel heard and engaged.
Benjamin Bolger, APUSH II teacher, said, “The chance for students to submit questions to Congressman Malinowski and hear them answered directly by the Congressman was a great experience for my students.”
Students also learned about the inner-workings of government. JT Naldi asked how the congressman was able to convey his ideas to all 435 house representatives. Congressman Malinowski replied that he uses news coverage to convey his ideas to the public and get them attention in the House.
Bolger also felt it was an opportunity for students to apply in class teachings to real world scenarios. “My students have learned about the Constitution and the workings of Congress, but few if any of them have had a chance to meet and speak with their congressman.”
With the A.P. exam right around the corner this conference was a great insight on government proceedings.
Bolger felt the exposure the town hall gave students was valuable. “Even in an age of social media and greatly expanded opportunities to communicate with elected officials, a congressman can seem a remote and distant figure,” he said.
Most students had never spoken to a congressman let alone one who represents their district.
Students gained invaluable experience speaking with Congressman Tom Malinowski. Although the juniors in the class will not be able to vote in the 2020 election, opportunities like this gives them insight into the importance of their part in the political process.