Sometimes lessons synch up so well with current events, it is insane. Today, I turn away from understanding political parties to critiquing them. And some of my students are waltzing through the door asking questions about the Ted Cruz "fauxbuster," which is a great interlude into the topic. (I particularly liked the Seussian post by Ruth Marcus in WaPo this morning. Giggle)
Anywho, I assign an excerpt from Kate Zernike called Boiling Mad (available in the Lanahan Readings 5th edition). This is meant to piggy back on the discussion from the previous class about classifying political parties. Unfortunately, my kids did NOT read this, so the amazing questions I had for them will be shifted over to the test. They're on their own!
The reading covers Rand Paul's rise to Congress in 2010, as well as the sentiment of the Tea Party. We struggled in class to classify the Tea Party as a coalition (much like the Neo-Cons) within the GOP, or as a splinter party to be, or as a party of the Libertarian movement. Zernike's coverage adds to the complexity of the classification, but there are a lot of interesting ties to the fauxbuster of yesterday...
I would have really liked to ask the kids if they think that John Boehner should be concerned about the Tea Party movement. I personally think that he should, as Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the Tea Party have revolted against Boehner's leadership in December of 2011 and December of 2012. (Here is a great blurb on that from David Hawkings of CQ Roll Call.)
So we plodded along and listened to Terri Gross's interview of former Congressmen Mickey Edwards, presently of NoLabels.org. Mickey gives a great overview of the partisan nature of politics in D.C., but the kids need to have either prior knowledge or instruction on the committee structure in Congress, redistricting, and open and closed primaries.
Going through this almost question by question is great to really reinforce the danger of factions that GW warned us about. It is brief (I only listen to the first 15 minutes) so kids don't completely zone out. I have a listening guide available on my website to help keep kids focused. I also like to print out pictures of the referenced politicians, so kids can start to tie faces to names. (They really get a kick out of the mustache magnets.)
Some great questions come out of the dialogue... primarily why citizens are not aware of how bad things are with elections and in Congress. Well, I can't answer that question but I certainly can speculate.
It's a party up in here...
While doing more research on parties, here are some new (and not so new) images that are great for parties...
Sometimes I am surprised at the things kids love to do. This lesson was one of them. Surprising, yet effective.
My objective is two-fold: 1.) Understand what third parties offer to elections if they NEVER will win 2.) Describe why third parties will never win.
We kick class off by reading two articles: one from Fox News and the other from Boston University. These articles are great because they highlight the spoiler effect of third party candidates, as well as the critic and innovator role.
I ask students to role play that they are campaign coordinators for Romney and Obama, and to come up with campaign strategy. Some of my draconian kids want to kill off Johnson, but I remind them that their candidate will probably lose the election, so it is counterproductive (as well as illegal). It takes a while, and some gentle prodding, but we eventually land on trying to take up the issues that poll well with voters as their own, provided the issues don't stray too far away from the party in the electorate's values.
We have a brief foray into third party history, with Deb's impact on the suffrage movement, and Perot's impact on the election of 1996 and the balanced budget movement during the Clinton Administration.
So why is it so hard to be a third party-er?
Kids postulate barriers to success... and we hit them up in no certain order.
I follow up with asking them why they personally would vote for a third party candidate... and get some great answers.
Sort A Party Activity
Kids love their phones and to write on the board. This final activity is fun, and the kids get into it. I direct students to this Directory of Political Parties. They work in pairs to choose a party, read the summary, and then go up to the board (YES!) and categorize the party into one of four types of minor parties:
Students have to stand next to their contribution and justify why they sorted it as they did. If while students are preparing to go up and someone else categorizes their party first, they should find a different party. It is a race, and the kids get into it.
My summative questions at the end:
What type of minor political party is most likely to impact the outcome of the election? Why or why not?
What are the biggest impediments to minor parties’ success in elections?
I that there is no one stop source out there on political parties... You really have to cobble together a lesson... Youth Leadership has some lessons on how to teach lessons, but I have found I have to do my own work here.
For starters, I have to teach the history of American political parties. I used to do this by having the kids read the section in our Magruder's textbook and create a cartoon strip to work this out. It was a way to get kids to start thinking of political symbolism, text structure, and how to explain historical issues pictorially. I am sad to say, kids did struggle with this. It also, frankly, took too long.
I am trying something new. I started off having kids read from the 12th ed of American Government Power & Purpose (a great resource I picked up from my AP Training). There is a great section that goes into more detail then the Magruder book.
I then had students read the selection to find evidence that supported and refuted the following statement:
The two major parties are coalitions of several factions and interest groups and recognize the importance of conducting campaigns that appeal to voters in the middle of the political spectrum, veering neither too far left nor too far right of the political center.
They then walked up and wrote their strongest quote on the board. In my five classes, some kids got this and some kids did not. Some were able to target passages that detailed tenuous coalitions for Democrats made up of urban working class folks, small farmers, and mining interests from the west. We talked about how it was a flaw of the parties that these different interests were forced to find home in one party, despite the fact that they may not agree; and that this is a reason why people tend to vote the way the do, because they want to vote for a candidate who wins.
They also found passages that described very polarized times in history; in which there were more political options then Rs and Ds, as well as situations in which we only had one party @ the founding of the nation. I was able to highlight that this was because there is no constitutional mandate for parties, etc... good and bad.
One great question I had from our discussion was whether or not there would be a time where parties would cease to exist or be unnecessary... which was a great foray into the five functions of parties... and how it would be highly unlikely (despite the fact that we humans like to coagulate as a matter of nature)
Here is a brief rundown of the sites used and the questions asked...
Republican & Democrat
State Website: Virginia
Republican & Democrat
Local Website: Fairfax County
Republican & Democrat
Answer the following questions:
· What types of messages and actions are advocated at each of these levels of the party? Provide specific examples (nominating candidates, informing and activitating supporters, the bonding agent, governing, or the watchdog function)
Do you feel that the messages from the examined websites are being directed at the party in the electorate, party in the government, or the party organization? Can you provide information that supports this assertion?
Finally, to round out this class, we evaluated party websites at the national, state, and local level. We scoured these websites looking for information that exemplifies these five political functions of parties. I also wanted to highlight how sometimes local and state political issues are out of sync with national political agendas, and that is primarily because all the parties really care about is winning.
See what I mean? You really gotta dig on this one! What do you do to cover these topics?
Did you hear about this book last year? I can't think of a more analytical examination of the lack of compromise and polarized, partisan politics than this book. While I don't ask my kids to know about it in detail, we do spend a brief time examining the basic concepts. But in order to do that, I have to do some ground work.
1. What are we all expected to do? as citizens?
We start by reading an excerpt from Robert Bellah's Habits of the Heart. The kids really get thrown for a loop on this one, because it seems so out of place. He is a sociologist, and talks about the importance of civic life and private life. He uses lexicon from old westerns to prove his point; I turn to Bruce Wayne from the Batman series. BW: hyper private, but connected to the community. All of this spirals back to selflessness vs selfishness... a keystone point in the excerpt.
We started asking what we need to do all of these things, and came up with five themes.
They are needed for society and the economy to function. So, which is the most at risk? Well, in this scenario, it's compromise. Students watched a short video on PBS that explains the work in broad strokes, but here is a more detailed interview. You have to explain some of the history, like Obamacare's link to the Republican party in 1993 and the filibuster of today... but they get it.
Here are some great questions to sum up their experience...
Do you think that the government of today is fulfilling the promise of the Preamble; the stated purpose of the government? It is well accepted that the government should provide for societal equality (race, religion, gender), however, is it the role of the government to provide economic equality?
Look around at the news today... Syria, Egypt, North Korea, Iran, Russia... all of these countries have different ways to solve an age problem... How to divy up resources and social freedom. Okay, they do it drastically different than we do.
So, how to describe this? We have to go back to the informationisbeautiful graphic. Notice how it is really incomplete in differentiating between economic versus social policy? Yeah, that's 'cause here in 'Merica, we are all pretty similar. That means we are a consensual state. We have these bundles of rights in the Bill of Rights that establishes a pretty even playing ground, at least in theory.
Other states like the five up top are a bit more conflictual, meaning they argue about social and economic equality. I draw this up by analyzing the material at politicalcompass.org, which I usually summarize with a whiteboard presentation. (Remember, I hate powerpoints.) That way I can condense the matieral, and move on my way.
We then spend time looking at answers to the questions of who participates, distribution of power geographically, and finally the relationship between executive and legislative branches. We spend a second talking about the origin of the state theories, and then off we go! It's art project time!
Students work in teams to create fictional countries that explain how their country came to pass in relation to all these lovely choices.
Pictures to come!! :)
If I had a nickle for every kid who prefaced their opinions with, "My [parental unit] says...
So, let's tackle that concept. It's not just about political typology, as discussed in this lovely handout from informationisbeautiful.com. I spend a lot of time explaining that "conservative" and "Republican" are not synonymous. You can be one, and not the other... , and it can change from issue to issue. I love this handout because it is colorful, fun to look at, and a great example of a visual graphic. Oh, and you can buy a poster sized copy for your wall.
So, they each get a copy, and then we discuss it. And then we answer the best question of all... "What are you?"
To answer this, I skip to the Pew Center for the People and the Press. They have a great little political typology quiz. I originally had my students take the quiz on their connective devices, but it doesn't load onto touch screens correctly. Off to the magical computer lab!! About twenty minutes to answer 20 questions and read up on your typology (one of seven), and then we talk.
I love asking the students to question how accurate the quiz is... where the inaccuracies lie... (validity, intensity, and relevance), and then we line up. We stand in a dot graph (Line up behind the first person in your typology), which was a great suggestion from a student in stats.
So, what does this mean? Why do kids feel the way they do? Once they discuss this question with people in the same typology, they answer... (political socialization!!)
I need to layer in age, gender, race, socio-economic status, and geographical factors.
So, I live in suburban D.C., and most of my kids are postmoderns. What are yours, and why?
Day one is fun. It reminds me of that Key & Peele substitute teacher skit.
I would, one day, love to purposefully mispronounce all the names. But I digress.
First day is rough. You gotta cover logistics, but you don't want to bore the kids to death. I change our opening "warmup" every year, looking for that one golden goose.
Besides the logistics, I love to pose the essential question to my kids. "Why do we need to take government."
Oh, the answers are great. So much fun.
"So you have a paycheck."
"To torture me."
"I was hoping you would tell me."
When you ask them what it is, they answer names. Obama, Boehner, Pelosi, McCain.
Wait, kids. We live in a dictatorship? An oligarchy? No, it's a bit more than that. It's an institution, no? We don't name names in the preamble, we name offices.
We spend time analyzing this little video... People on the Street
And then we cycle back to my favorite document... by my favorite ginger, and (some people say our favorite plagarist), TJ.
PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (here is why he's not a plagarist... he changed it to PoH from property. Why? Cause not everyone is stoked by owning. It's usually our ability to own; the chase and not the catch.
Here is why government is important to us. It is to do all this. So we can do these essential things that you... I... don't think about.
Okay. It's time. School is about to be back in session, and one of the issues at HS is PAPER. As in, we don't have enough. Normally folks line up for weeks at a time shoving their precious handouts in the xerox, gobbling up time and money. My time, HS's money. (I am confident that your school, too, has many cultural norms when it comes to the copy machine... time limit? sharing is caring? clean up your jams? horde paper for scarce times?)
So, I rolled out a new paradigm. Yeah, me and everyone else in the world.
I am super skeptical about Google doc's privacy and copyright rules. But the lure of making a totally easy to maintain inventory of anything I ever cared to ask?
Good bye, hard copy syllabus verification sheets that I tack to the back of my five page syllabus. Good bye, reams of paper I collect with contact info only to throw it out in June.
Hello, GoogleDocs. Yes, I will use the forms to get your info. And, it's free! (I don't really think it is)
I highly suggest you use google docs to track textbook signouts, field trips, student info. whatEVER.
Bonus, you can download an app to your phone and have your stuff with you everywhere. I have ALL my materials in the cloud.
So much for boycotting the cloud.
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.