Fantasy Congress and the usefulness of wrong models

So, deciding I had not reached my full geek potential, last night I started a league in Fantasy Congress.

Fantasy Congress is like Fantasy Football — you pick a team out of all available members of Congress and the Senate, and during a specified season your team competes — if my Senators “stats” (for legislation passed or co-sponsored) beat all the other Senators stats, I win in that “position”, and so on.

It’s actually a litttle more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

So I started thinking — would this be useful at all in a politics classsroom?

My first thought was no. Because the model is wrong. It’s a lousy model to compute effectiveness.Â

To cite just a few examples: co-sponsoring is rated too highly in the formula relative to authoring legislation. And attendance, which has very little to do with congressional sway, is in the formula, as is level of news coverage, which tends to favor presidential candidates, regardless of their congressional duties. And “Mavericking”, the act of voting against your party, is often a sign of strength, but it also occurs where weak politicians find themselves sitting on districts with rapidly changing red-blue demographics — giving points for bowing to that pressure seems just wrong.

So that was my first thought.Â

My second thought was that any kid who left an American Government class able to articulate what was wrong with Fantasy Congress’s model of congressional power would leave with knowledge superior to that of 99.9% of Americans.

Where the professor in a class has enough knowledge to assist students in critiquing underlying models, a bad model can do you as well as a good one. I still love the Cognitive Arts dream of highly engaging, highly accurate simulations. But failing that, get an inaccurate simulation and have students critique it. They may learn just as much.

One thought on “Fantasy Congress and the usefulness of wrong models

  1. Fantasy Congress…I still think about it. I wonder where the creators are now. Remember the promotional video? It was a play on The Office. Fun Fact, my Dad was in our league and was so into it.

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