Ellen Gutman

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward Sidlow


The purpose of this study is to examine the ability of students in an Introduction to American Government class to make decisions and participate in politics. Throughout simulations designed to emulate Congress, students create legislation, attempt to gain support for it, and pass new laws dealing with four separate topics during the semester; my focus is, specifically, on the issue of prayer in public schools. Often, it seemed that students were conforming to the beliefs of the friends they had made in the class instead of supporting and promoting their own beliefs. While dissent was encouraged and some students were being persuaded by their classmates, some appeared to be completely abandoning their opinions so that they would not stand out from the group. By the end of the semester, students were changing their opinions more in the simulations than at the beginning and more readily admitting that it was for reasons other than legitimate persuasion.