We’ve chatted before about ways to introduce, talk about, and integrate controversial topics on our classrooms. Today I’m flashing back to a conversation I had with Charles Vaughan, a high school teacher from South Carolina. Ten months ago, he shared some of his experiences and thoughts on incorporating political topics into his instruction.
Some of what he referenced seems relevant this week as the congressional impeachment inquiry continues to ramp up. Quoting from an article in an Atlantic titled The Case for Contentious Classrooms, Charles highlighted the importance of what he calls a political classroom:
“Schools teach many things. For the most part, though, they have not not taught students how to engage in reasoned, informed debates across society’s myriad differences.”
He also shared some thoughts based on a book titled The Political Classroom by Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy. During an interview titled Politics in the Classroom. How Much is Too Much? on NPR, McAvoy asks: Read more
As a poly sci junkie, I’m torn.
The 2018 government shutdown is bad for just about everybody. And it seems like it happened over something that most Americans want to see happen – protection for Dreamers. A Fox News poll says 86% of us support DACA. A CBS poll reports 87% supporting the idea.
But the shutdown does create an opportunity to jump into all sorts of conversations involving civics and procedure and policy and elections and checks and balances and three branches and media bias . . . well, you get the idea. If you haven’t already, this week might be a good time to jump ship on your scheduled curriculum and spend some time making connections to the government side of the social studies.
Need a few quick resources? Read more
We all know the story. A group of guys from different parts of the country with different ideas of how to govern got together and came up with a pretty amazing document. It’s a great story with a pretty amazing cast. (I’m looking at you #Hamilton.) And we all have our favorite actors in that story. My fave?
He’s kind of like the sleeper pick in your fantasy football league – everyone knows he’s out there but they ignore him because all the focus is on Jefferson or Madison or one of the other first rounders. But you draft him anyway cause you know he’s got the skills.
Ben was smart, irreverent, great with people, well-read, the ladies loved him, he had that whole kite / electricity / scientist thing working, and was by far the best part of 1776 and John Adams. What’s not to love?
And so it’s fun to go back and read some of what Ben had to say about the document he was preparing to sign in 1787: Read more
“As a mapmaker, I can have more impact on an election than a campaign. More of an impact than a candidate. When, I as a mapmaker, have more of an impact on an election than the voters, the system is out of whack.”
Republican redistricting consultant following 1990 Census
I don’t think we spend enough time having kids explore the whole gerrymandering thing as part of our government / civics engagement instruction. David is right. And I don’t think enough of us understand the power that redistricting can have on the democractic process.
Quick primer. Gerrymandering is the legislative act of creating voting maps that favor your particular political party. And according to a recent Wired article, it usually involves one of two different tools: Read more
For a former poly sci major, a presidential election year is like one long Super Bowl party. Polls. Data. Ads. Commentary. Analysis. Policy discussions. Lots and lots of analysis. Throw in the Senate and House races – not to mention the state and local stuff going on here in Kansas – and it doesn’t get any better.
And the cool thing is that there are tons of online resources available to help me, you, and your students understand and participate in the process.
Your first step should be to browse through the article titled Have Politics Become So Ugly That Educators Are Afraid To Teach Civics? It might be easier to pretend the election is already over and try to ignore all the ugliness that can happen when we see so much polarization in the process. But we can not ignore our task as social studies educators – preparing students to be thoughtful, engaged, and informed citizens. Read more
“He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
Article II, Section 3, US Constitution
Back in the day, George Washington delivered the first state of the union address to Congress in New York City in 1790. Thomas Jefferson believed that a face to face version was too much King George the IIIish and so began sending written reports instead. Other presidents followed suit with the report being read to Congress by a clerk. Woodrow Wilson re-started the face to face idea in 1913.
Other #SOTU trivia?
Jimmy Carter delivered the last written message to Congress in 1981. Of course, it was also the longest message at over 33,000 words, so maybe that was a good thing. Nixon’s 1972 speech was the shortest at just over 28 minutes.
But enough poly sci nerd talk. How best to use last night’s festivities? Some quick thoughts: