While ole man winter wages a war outside, it's that time of year where we can all retire to our couches, grab a mug of cocoa while a fire rages in the fire place... and snuggle up to the POTUS.
So, this is my next unit. Pretty nice, huh? Fortuitous timing?
Well, my poor kiddies have to finish their semester exams first. THEN we tackle the big man.
So, in the WEEK they have off coming up, maybe I will give them some things to think about.
1: Al Jazeera America is asking folks to tweet pics of themselves with their wishes for the POTUS in his next year. #DearPOTUS.
2: The White House is inviting folks to watch the enhanced live stream on FB, YouTube, or Google+. There will be a SOTU chat afterwards with some members of Obama's Executive Office of the President. Follow with #SOTUChat.
3. The White House offers us an inside glimpse of prepping for the SOTU. You can either go #InsideSOTU on Tumblr or follow their progress on Storify or their devoted SOTU page on Whitehouse.gov.
So, what do we do with this?
What will you do? I couldn't decide on just one, so I made an assignment with all six.. In a rush? Have $2 to spare? You can get a copy, too!!!
Power, leverage, and influence have come in all different forms through our nation's history.
Many political junkies have chronicled this push and pull of power between the Congress and President as the 'law of ebb and flow.' Primarily during moments of national crisis (war, recession, etc.) have created stronger POTUSes. However, there have been equally great Congresses.
Honestly, I cannot tell where we are right now. I would think that we are in neither. We don't have a 'czar' Speaker... Boehner is struggling to keep his party together. The 'young guns,' McCarthy, Ryan, and Cantor, are fighting to control the House. And to dismantle the direction Obama wants to take.
So, it is an interesting time indeed.
I like to compare and contrast how members of Congress get things done. How the top does it; what it is like at the bottom of the pile. So, I show two movies.
First up is Cliffhanger. While some people criticize PBS for painting Boehner in a sympathetic or inept light, you still get a feel for the way things are done on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Follow that up with Mr. Cao Goes to Washington. As a freshman member, he represents a traditionally black district in the heart of New Orleans... and struggles to be true to his district and to the party's needs.
Between the two movies, you get some great questions about how each side gets leverage... like freshman are better working en masse, using grassroots pressure... while the party elite rely on campaign donations, sweetheart legislation, and handing out high ranking political positions.
These are your Congressman, all three of 'em.
Okay, I don't know who yours are, but I do know who mine are. Warner-Kaine-Connolly.
Well, we take a quick divergence down the path of just who are these people... And we stop in a couple of places to really understand this concept.
For starters, we need to figure out the deal with Congressional leadership.
(And if at any point you are looking for more resources, try the Dirksen Center.)
So, we march through the positions and the players. Again. I love making color pics of these dudes and dudettes, laminating them, and then posting them up on the board.
1. Speaker of the House: One of the only Constitutionally mandated offices in the house; the Speaker is only second today in authority to the President. He is elected by his fellow members; preserves order in the chamber, has unlimited power of recognition during debates (and can refuse to hear folks when he is feeling particularly nasty) , decides points of order, appoints Speakers pro temp when necessary, AND he also retains the right to SPEAK (though does it in the chambers when someone else is pro temp) and to VOTE. Because he is chosen by the majority to lead the chamber, the party, (and in most cases) all of Congress, he is able to rule with an iron fist. The whole of the Rules has been written (for the most part) to bestow ample power on him. At times, the Speaker has been MORE powerful, like Clay, Reed, Cannon, and Rayburn. At times, the rules were written so that the Speaker could be the Chair of the all powerful Rules Committee... and do radical things like call bills up as he saw fit, instead of following the lead of the various calendars. Many of these Speakers felt strongly that they were more powerful than the President himself... and indeed many of them were... particularly during 19th century, with exceptions like Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt(s), and Wilson...
When Thomas Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's Vice President, first assumed the chain in 1913, he begged leave to make a few remarks to the Senate "before he enters upon a four years's silence." A little later, at the end of a two-week debate on the tariff, he said he had been "like a man in a cataleptic state; he cannot speak; he cannot move; he suffers no pain; and yet he is perfectly conscious of everything that is going on about him."
Sounds like he's been sitting in on my class.
3. Party Leaders: There are two for each party in each chamber, of which the Rules are written to favor the Majority Leader in the Senate the most. This is primarily because he acts as the House Rules Committee in the Senate, deciding what bills will be considered when and under what conditions. He is the calendar, the traffic cop, of the Senate. The rest of the Majority Leaders (Senate Majority Leader included) tackle legislative strategy... they (help) decide what will happen in the committees, suggest hearings and people to call upon to testify, etc.
4. Whips: These folks work with the leaders on legislative strategy, but work primarily to count votes. Since the days of persuading peers in the House and the Senate via oration are gone, and most of the work is presently done behind the scenes and in committees, the party leaders HATE surprise votes. They call, persuade, pressure, and schmooze votes out of their caucus/conference... and may even be instrumental in helping rank and file in their re-election bids by getting them time on the floor, co-sponsoring legislation, getting appropriations for projects in home districts of key votes.
Other than that, if you are rank and file... you are grinding it out. Freshman members beware; some of the old guard will work hard to keep you from getting time on the floor.
During JFK's first year in the Senate he was anxious to make a good impression on his elders and on occasion outdid himself. One afternoon, in a burst of energy, he rushed to the Senate floor, offered a flurry of amendments, held a news conference, made some remarks on two or three bills, issued some press statements, and finally sank, exhausted, into a chair next to Carl Hayden, who had been in the Senate for more than forty years. "Well," said Kennedy, I guess you must have seen a lot of changes in the time you've been here."
So after we get this straight, we move on to getting to know members themselves.
A peer gave me a great *homemade* resource... and that is a Fantasy Congress.
There are a lot of lessons like this out there, but it is hard to keep up with these when ever there is a vacancy in either chamber... but with this resource, I had each student draw three members. (One Senator; three Congressman.)
From here they were told to do the whole Fantasy Baseball thing... I gave categories for various actions, things like:
There is more than this... but you get the drift. I set the kids to THOMAS, to the Senate Cloture list, to Congress.gov, and other places... to go and check up on their members.
Not only does this give the kids the opportunity to see what kinds of actions members are taking over a ten day span, but they also get familiar with these types of resources. They are about to embark on a ten page analytical paper in which they will be proposing a public issue that needs to addressed, research possible solutions, and propose the "best one." Research tends to be the biggest problem for these folks.
It is also humorous to see the kids figure out who the big hitters are in this assignment. They get excited when they draw the big names... the Mike Lees, the John McCains, the Pete Sessions of the body.
And to get them to buy in, I offer a full letter grade bump on the upcoming Congress test. <<Woot, woot>>
And if this doesn't do it for you... try these resources. They're great!
Kids in the House
Congressional Committees website
More Congressional fun to come.
I wanna really get this whole filibuster thing down pat, so I am start class with a review of the informal changes that the bodies in Congress themselves can make. The Nuclear Option (passed in November 2013, and reviewed in the previous lesson), is going to get it's due time once again.
A brighter spotlight on the filibuster reveals that this maneuver has been around since 1806. The Senate dropped rules that ended debate by a majority vote. The Cloture Rule (Senate Rule XXII) was invoked in 1917 to try to green light Woodrow Wilson's desire for a declaration of war. This rule was amended in 1975 to allow the cloture vote requirement to be 3/5s instead of 2/3rds. Again, the nuclear option lowers the cloture threshold to a simple majority.
To Socrative we go after the kids start the day off with a quick reading. I ask the kids...
We can even take a look at how effective it has been...
After we are done reviewing the role of debate in the upper chamber, we are going to try something a little bit different.
I am going to start the kids off by following the lead of another awesome government teacher I've been in contact with... we'll try a fantasy Congress. I will have the kids draw four members of Congress, either Senate or Congress. The kids will track their member of Congress for the remainder of the Congress unit for introduced legislation.
Using Congress.gov, students can track their four members for legislative action. They get the following points:
Using the Senate Reference Page, students get
On the Congressional Record, students get:
On radio/television talk shows, students get:
The kids have two weeks to run their fantasy Congress activity, and get to report back to me prior to the test. The person with the most fantasy points gets ten extra credit points; second place 7 extra credit points, and third gets 5 extra credit points for the test.
After we are done with that, I am going to round it out with vetoes... I am going to have to dip back into my Student Constitutions and look at what the FF say about this (Article 1 Section 7... there is a great article on vetoes here.) I love this chart that gives us a description of POTUS vetoes... And my bud HHH is here to help with that...
And you know what? Here is what I think is lacking in the world. Infographics. Twice I have searched for infographics that condence information like Congressional leadership or classes of vetoes... and twice I have come up dry. I think I smell a project brewing in the background. An infographic project? Software to make these things is free...
Yeah, I don't do it. My kids take civics for a year in 8th grade, and I feel like they can take this on for me. So, I leave it to them to do a collaborative out-of-class activity. (I wish I could call it a PBL, but it's a bit shy of those lofty accolades.) They have to create a song (the music can be unoriginal, but the lyrics must be original) that covers the legislative process. They can perform live or with a video, and I have gotten some really awesome examples in the past year. If you want me to do all the heavy lifting, you can purchase the guiding document and rubric on my TpT storefront...
That being said, there are a ton of great resources out there.
I ask my kids to watch this video and be responsible for the content (GREAT for flipped classrooms!)
I also particularly love this amazing infographic...
And if you are looking for an update to the I'm Just a Bill video, try this one on for size!
I will admit, the break got to me on this one. I am not the proudest of this unit... I have some ideas that I will share in terms of where I want to take this in the next year.
My first day in Congress is meant to be a crash course in Congress, with odds and ends of Congressional je ne sais quoi.
I started with an activity from iCivics that discusses the philosophies that drive members to vote the way they do. Much of it is for younger students, but a good and amusing discussion about how members vote. And hey, it's fun to figure out which of your students don't know the difference between USPS and UPS.
I want to start by thanking Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald for their uncompromising dedication to giving the NSA violations air time and transparency. I wanted to share some of the most important things I have learned from this book bef...
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
by Bill Bishop
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
I lovgov. LOVE IT! I love teaching government, learning about it, debating, discussing, asking questions about government. And not the standard boiler plate questions, but the hard ones that are NOT in the books.