Don't like your school lunch? Wish it tasted better? I am going to give you step-by-step instructions for how to change that. If you follow these instructions and get others to support you, you could change a law. You could make your school lunch taste better . . . or anything else you can think of. If this doesn't work, at least you will understand how laws can be changed.
You live in a country run by the votes of people. Well . . . you live in a country run by people who are chosen by the votes of people. A representative democracy is the idea that you can vote for leaders who will represent you and make decisions for you. Men and women run for office, asking you to vote on them to give them power to change laws. If you believe in what they say they will do, you can vote for them. If they get enough of the vote, they step into office and can work to change laws. Understanding that is the first step to changing your school lunch, or at least knowing how laws work.
Next, you need to find out who the elected officials are where you live. Ask a teacher or a parent, or if you are good with the Internet, look it up. A representative is a person who is chosen by a group of people to act or speak for them. As soon as you have this person's name, try to find their email or their address where they work. Do not send the first cat picture or silly joke you can think of. You want them to listen to you. They are busy people!
As I said before, these representatives help to make laws. They do not just write up what they think should be legal and then everyone has to obey. There's a lot more to it than that. A bill is a suggestion for a new law or a change to an old law. Someone explains the idea and then all the people who make decisions think long and hard to decide if it is a good idea. If a representative really wants to make a new law, he or she has to write an argument and then bring in front of a big group of people. It's kind of like a school report . . . But instead of a grade, they find out whether or not they can change the laws of the land. The letter you write about changing your school lunch will be a request for them to make a new bill.
It would be bad if just one person got to decide all of the laws. (Really, it's a pretty small group of people, and most of them are rich, but that's an argument for another time.) Instead, a group of people get to do research and argue about it. A committee is a group of people who come together to study something specific to help leaders decide what to do. If you were to ask them for better lunch, one person might say it should be healthier while another might say there should be more food. You may have come up with the original idea, but now it's their job to work out the details. Some of them might say that the school lunches should be healthier. Others might say this will cost too much. This starts an argument.
Most of the time, the law that is made is different than the idea that was first suggested. There are so many ideas bouncing around a committee that everyone has to work hard to find things to agree on. This is not always easy. A compromise is an agreement that is reached by each side making sacrifices. They meet in the middle. So neither group is all happy, but both groups get a little of what they wanted. The food is a little healthier, but there's a little less food in each lunch. Sometimes, compromises do not end well. Things can get messy. And not in a food fight way.
It may seem hard to try and change a law. But really, you only have to understand a few things and go through a few steps to get the right person's attention. You live in a representative democracy, where people vote to choose someone who will speak for you and your teachers and other students. Your representative is the elected official who looks over where you live and can make work to make changes. They do this by introducing a bill, or an idea for a new law. A committee, or a group of people will study and work to decide if this bill will be passed into law and if there are changes that need to be made. Because people disagree all the time, they may have to make a compromise, which is an agreement where both sides made some changes to what they wanted in the first place. So now that you know how it works, try to think up some changes. Who knows? You might be able to change your school.
Kids in the House. "How Laws are Made: How a Bill
Becomes a Law" kids.clerk.house.gov, 2010.
United States House of Representatives. "The
Legislative Process" house.gov, 2010.