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:
Many of you have asked for specific resources that focus on the upcoming mid-term elections. Hopefully this quick list of tools will help:
“Sorting out the truth in politics”
Access. Analyze. Act
Discover the power of social media while promoting your students’ civic engagement
CNN Election Center
Monitoring the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players
FactCheck’s educator’s page
Who’s buying your politician?
Originally designed for the 2008 election, this site does a great job breaking down election data
Tracks political polls for U.S. federal elections
Yahoo Political Dashboard
Same thing, just from Yahoo
HuffPost Election Center
Great charts and graphs
Talking Points Memo Poll Tracker
All Sides Election Center
Sweet site that provides news / commentary from left, center, right perspectives
VoteSmart / VoteEasy
How to vote and who you should vote for
C-Span’s Election Classroom
Center for Action Civics
Student News Daily
Yes. I am a poly sci nerd. Love elections. Love debates. Love the data. So meeting in DC this last week was . . . awesome.
And this morning, I ran across LegEx. A great way to close out a Poly Sci nerd week.
Short for Legislative Explorer and maintained by the University of Washington Center for American Politics and Public Policy, the site is a interactive visualization that allows you and your students to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress. The graph provides a great way to get the big picture while providing opportunities to dig deeper. Compare the bills and resolutions introduced by Senators and Representatives and follow their progress from the beginning to the end of a two year Congress. Go back in time and compare / contrast different years, bi-partisan vs. partisan, parties, or House vs. Senate.
You can Read more