Massachusetts Boys State is designed to teach democratic values, improve knowledge of government and encourage citizen involvement through an intensive week-long program that immerses students in grass roots democracy. Over the course of seven days, students create and manage their own municipalities and work to understand how our government functions. In addition, they form political parties, create a platform, and vote in a slate of officers that mirrors state government. They also elect two senators to represent them at Boys Nation, a gathering held every July in Washington, D.C.
There are three aspects to the program: academic, case-based instruction; participatory, learning-by-doing tasks of voting on platforms and candidates, and possibly running for office; and finally, social: meeting, working, and living with people from a variety of backgrounds from across the Commonwealth. When students arrive, they are assigned to a town and a party. The town is the group of boys they will study, eat and live with for the week. The parties are designated Federalist or Nationalist, and will represent what they decide, through debates, conventions and votes.
The academic aspect is based on case studies that reflect actual problems faced by Massachusetts municipalities. Students are presented with a situation and asked to analyze the issue and make their recommendations. Solutions are decided by a vote of the boys. A series of elective classes cover the economy, government and the judicial system. The last features the Boys State Court, where boys accused of infractions are prosecuted, defended and judged by their fellow Boys State Citizens, all the while advised and overseen by practicing attorneys. There are also mini-courses, which in recent years included Freakonomics and International Relations.
Boys Staters hear from an impressive roster of speakers, which in recent years has included United States Senator Ed Markey, former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Governor Deval Patrick, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, United States District Court Judge William Young and Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray. There are also seminars that cover the operation of town, city and state government.
Boys State is a program of the American Legion, executed by Legion members and Boys State graduates. All are volunteers who wish to give boys the same opportunity they enjoyed. Their time, expertise and dedication, in many cases spanning decades, make it possible.
We are proud that over three hundred boys attend, and even more proud of the strength and quality of the programs. Every year, we add to, refine and enhance our offerings, ensuring that the curriculum continues to challenge participants and teach the critical thinking that makes for an engaged citizen.
Other activities include intramural sports conducted in an atmosphere of friendly competition, a newspaper and the Boys State band, which adds spirit and entertainment to our major events. The counselors vs. Boys Staters softball game is always a highlight of the week. All provide opportunities to relax, socialize and make new friends.