By Christine McClure, M.A., M.A.
CONCORD–The involvement of being a resident of New Hampshire resides in each of our abilities to seek solutions and develop critical thinking skills that make a change for the better. This fall semester, the NHTI course SOCI 105C: Introduction to Sociology decided take students to view “policies in action” by touring the New Hampshire State House earlier this month.
Sociology, as a discipline, has been underrated and overlooked for decades. As noted by Paula DelBonis-Platt, chair of the Social Sciences Department at NHTI, “[This course] focuses on crucial sociological issues of today, involving the relationship of the individual to society and groups of individuals to one another, along with social change.
“And what better place to learn about the issues facing residents of NH and the ways of accomplishing change through the legislative process than at the NH State House!”
At the State House, students saw how the three sociological theories apply to each social issue: Some issues will get attention, others will be voted down, and each student brings their own understanding to democracy and social change. Did you know that at the age of 18, a resident can become a representative? Or that at the age of 30, they can become a senator or even president? This was among the facts that our students learned during our visit.
“I have always been interested in our lawmaking process in New Hampshire, so visiting the statehouse was a memorable experience,” says NHTI student Rebecca “Becker” Gibson. “It helped to ground my perception of it: that these are real people in this real building doing this important work. NH’s hands-on style of civic involvement is so critical in a time where we end up being so ideologically and socially isolated from others in our community.”
“The State House is right in my backyard, and I have gone there more times than I can remember,” says NHTI student Olivia De Angelis. “But going there and hearing the process as somebody now able to vote was more interesting than I would have thought.”
The group, which included Virginia, our knowledgeable and humorous tour guide, visited the House and Senate chambers. The oil paintings of Lincoln and Washington were exceptionally interesting.
“[Virginia] was able to turn a question about a portrait into an in-depth, enriching summary,” says De Angelis. “We talked about hilarious and fascinating topics, like what the state spider should be or if the education for nurses should be condensed into just a handful of months. We learned that the public truly has a voice regarding the matters of our state – which is significant, considering we are now all legally allowed to vote.”
“The visit was a great experience,” says NHTI student Charlotte Armstrong. “When we started our tour in the visitor center, there was a wall filled with political signs and buttons. It was cool to be able to talk about politics because usually that’s a very touchy subject. We saw the governor’s office, which has a fancy fireplace, but we couldn’t disturb him because he was in a meeting. We also visited the House of Chamber, which hosts the largest state legislative body in the United States with 400 members.”
“I found it interesting when looking at the flags from WWI the different conditions the flags returned with,” says NHTI student Keaton Lahey. “Some were ripped, while others were faded but not damaged. I also found it interesting that there was no chair number 13 where they discuss different issues.”
Overall, the students understood and experienced their own ability to be a voice for change.