It's election day here in 'Merica. (Why is this not a national holiday?) I am sitting at my desk thinking, writing, planning for voters, and how I taught this last year.
I have two classes to plan for now: one Honors Government and one Standard. (I teach in VA, and we don't do Common Core. So I am going to talk Virginian, and you can translate.)
This year I am trying to craft a course that meets diverse learners. What do I need to get across to each of these learners, and what is the most interesting way to get there?
Let me take you on a tour.
1. Both courses use my on-line course notes. I use Versal to divulge all kinds of information. My textbook is from 2009, and woefully inadequate. So, I have started typing up notes on the course and incorporating video, quizzes, images, graphics, and other apps you can throw in there. Kids need a user id and password, but that information is not shared with me.
Versal is great in that it allows me to circumvent funding issues, but it is a huge sink of time for me right now. My thoughts are that I will be able to update it as I see fit next year.
I like it better than blackboard in that it feels like a blog (like this) and access only requires a wifi and connective device. Kids should appreciate that.
2. Evaluation versus application. Both courses get the history and current events of voting, what the Constitution and the states do, and laws that cause states and federal agencies to battle each other.
I focus more on collaborative review activities with my standard class, while my honors kids delve more into the actual process, players, and impact of voting.
3. Skills, skills, skills. We work with statistics in this unit, an essential skill that is requested by all curriculum everywhere. We work with primary and secondary resources. Honors, again getting a bit more extension, gets to chew on some extended radio interviews actually questioning some of the folks who are active in creating voting barriers.
There are a lot of things in this unit that are up for sale on my TpT site... check it out to help you completely roll this unit out!
I woke up one morning thinking, what if there was a facebook page that summarized the history and evolution of Federalism? What if it tied together the argument between North and South from before the penning of the Constitution through Reconstruction to today? What if we could see the roots of modern insurgencies in our own political parties in such a way that it made it easier for students to understand?
I looked for one such page, but it didn't exist.
And then, with a little hard work, it did.
I hope you enjoy it more than I did making it, and it helps reinforce your lessons on Federalism.
(I feel like this should be a regular series.)
I am positive that many of my students following the primary elections thought me a huge, stinking liar while following the fall of Eric Cantor.
For they have been told that Virginia (enter airy, idealic music and images of birds fluttering and chirping over the dawning of a new day over a pastoral landscape) has open primaries that use public declaration.
And that is it.
So then, pray tell, how is it that Ed Gillespie was nominated as the GOP's candidate for the US Senate against Senator Mark Warner in a closed-door, members-only convention?
Yeah, I lied. So did the textbook.
I mean, if you look at Politico's analysis of the primaries, it gets even more complex.
I found myself returning to this question at the very end of our Courts, Rights, and Liberties unit.
What is the purpose of the courts? How do they function so differently from other two branches of the government? Why is their work done in such a quiet and private way? How is it their actions, while few (relatively) have such epic impact on the US?
Essentially, it has to do with the difference between politics and governance; majority rule, minority rights; and the rule of law.
Examining the definition of the two is a great way to start.
Majority Rule: Politics and Governance
I view politics as loud, chaotic, public, full of discord, acrimony, and debate. And hopefully, compromise.
NO! You know you want to. The AP test is over... and, well, the soft lull of movies is so calling your name.
Okay, this is totally on the fly, but I thought I'd try to jump start you into having AMAZINGLY AWESOME discussions with your somnambulent students in their post AP haze. How do you, how do they stay interesting?
Here are some ideas... and if you have some you want to share LEAVE A COMMENT! IT TAKES A VILLAGE, GURUS!
Pardon my theatrics... I hate to be morose, but I can't teach this unit without thinking of that awesome song by The Clash. There are really so many great songs out there with which you can open this unit, and kids really gravitate to issues surrounding these rights, or what little they know of them.
I take my time (relatively) through this unit. Besides the fact that I get more way more interest and lively debate, which always freaks me out, I find that there are some kids out there who really excel in logical "lawerly" thinking. Maybe they have never applied it to less objective reasoning than math and science... and find that they like these hypothetical, no-one-is-100%-right kind of arguing for the sake of arguing (I call it word math.)
I have my kids work through basic precedent by completing the Gallery Walk in the previous post, which is fun, but gets mixed results because... well... not all the kids put forth equal amounts of effort. So, I need to come in and clean it up.
The biggest problem that the students seem to have is whether or not a case is incorporated or not.
When the dreaded AP Testing window opens, I have to get creative to keep up with the bizarre scheduling and fried kids.
I also, generally, have a metric ton of material still to get through, and I don't think the kids can stand another lecture. So, getting to the SCOTUS cases I need to requires some creativity, flexibility, and patience. And FOOD. Lots and lots of FOOD.
I love the idea of turning this over to Project Based Learning... telling a kid, "hey, we need to know more about Clinton v NY. How about you teach me?" In the past, I have lectured, I have jigsawed, I have videoed, and the result is flat. And I end up repeating myself over and over and over again as new rounds of kids show up.
So here is my solution: A major project that I count as TWO test grades (one for the project presentation, which I do online and therefore I can have kids from different classes that meet on different days teach each other) and one for harvesting the data. It's food and art themed through and through... The possible activities kids can do (like boiling cases down into tweets, recreating facebook battles over the court case, prettying up major quotes into art) comes in a menu form, and since we have food on the Gallery Walk Day, it's kind of like dining with the SCOTUS. I got most of my cases from this lovely little synopsis of major court cases...
I can deal with the revolving door of kids coming and going, and I get to listen to kids get excited to learn things like how to jazz up a QR code so it isn't so boring. (They were totally excited to learn about canva because they can make pretty posters painlessly.)
When we do our Gallery Walk, I will post pictures of the festivities, but if you are interested in getting this for yourself, head on over to my store and get yourself a copy.
You won't regret it, I promise.
Pull out your white wigs and your gavels, it's time to play 'You be the Judge.' (Think I am kidding... I even have a cute stamp I put on the kids papers...)
My final stab at reading and writing skills AND interpreting the Constitution is a whopper. I assign the kids to play Supreme Court Justice. They get to decide issues of constitutional interpretation, judicial philosophy, precedent, and politics. All in one nice, neat little two page paper. I guide the students through two of them (it makes for a great class discussion!) and leave them to their own devices on the last one.
Per the student's request, our first of four papers is Sebelius v Hobby Lobby. My students are asked to tackle two plain-english derivations of the case before the SCOTUS, as well as two, more technical discussions.
I lead them through the various questions on the assignment, and take time to tackle some of the more complex legal maneouvering. In this case, the question before the court requires application of strict scrutiny. I find strict scrutiny, as well as all judicial tests, to be a problem for most students. This little video is super helpful.
Once I get through this video, I take care to explain the different tests, including intermediate scrutiny (the lesser used due to VMI.) Point here is whether or not the federal government has to treat Hobby Lobby as a "person," as it is not explicitly stated in the 1st Amendment, and "person" is loosely defined in the Federal Dictionary Act. Hmph. Pesky little boogers.
So, if they, meaning Hobby Lobby and the Green family who owns this chain of stores, are a person, then the government will have to employ a strict scrutiny test... and that requires the federal government to show:
-A compelling (or necessary and.or crucial) interest
If Hobby Lobby can show that their fundamental constitutional right to free exercise has been compromised, the then the government has to argue through evidence that Hobby Lobby's free exercise rights are NOT being infringed. But that is if the courts agree first that Hobby Lobby is a person. And if Hobby Lobby finds the Court seeing them as a person, then the government has about a 60% chance that the Courts will find in their favor. (That whole 'strict in theory, fatal in fact' argument is not as fatal as previously advertised.)
And below, because I have to 'make life impossible' for my students, are my notes on the case. If they find it, great. Key is you found it.
Great question; I am glad you asked.
As previously stated, I am super passionate about this unit. So, let's peel those beautiful crimson drapes back and get into it.
In looking at the creation of the courts, I draw two distinct parallels. The courts are OOAK (one of a kind) and not so much.
Why the courts are OOAK:
Why not so much:
I then get into the distinction between Title III and Title I courts, as well as courts of original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction.
Primarily, Article III courts are those that created in Article III of the Constitution, naturally. They tend to have a generic docket that hears all court cases under federal jurisdiction. There is one court created by the Constitution (the Supreme Court), as well as one class of jurists (Supreme Court Judges). The rest of the courts are created under statute (most notably the Judiciary Act of 1789)
Article I courts are created by Congress under Constitutional authority, specifically Article I Section 8 Clause 9. There are several types of courts who are crafted pursuant to the powers in the Article I: tax courts, regulation of territories and DC, and military courts. (And to make it even more complex, consider the over 4,000 executive adjudicators who work in varying degrees of independence, though never full independence, from the executive. The Supreme Court can and does review their decisions, as in the case NLRB v Canning.)
Here is a great resource for use to explain this...
From this point, we discuss the lovely world of judicial activism vs judicial restraint. I don't belabor the various subgroupings like textualists, originalists, etc... we just get a general understanding of reading into a decision with the desire to write rulings that either live within the text of the Constitution or broadly interpret the Constitution.
I have a worksheet that covers this in a nutshell, and even has a great video link from Annenberg that pairs Justice Scalia up with Justice Breyer in a head to head debate over the merits of each interpretation. (Up on TPT).
For an even MORE in-depth review of the various philosophies, try the first chapter in Scalia Dissents. It is succinct and has an appropriate treatment for the content. And, it is pretty humorous. Actually, the whole book is hilarious, but that is for another day.
This is, and probably always will be, my favorite unit in all of government.
And my first observations on the court are borrowed ones.
When you ask Americans to rank the three branches of the government, the Supreme Court usually ranks number one in the hearts of mice and men. This is followed by the President and Congress. Right now it is in that order.
(As of today, SCOTUS ranks around 48%, POTUS is coming in strong at 44%, and Congress is bringing up the rear at a dismissal 13%.)
REALLY!?! While I love the SCOTUS, I find this stat to be incredible for TWO reasons...
1.) The SCOTUS is the least democratic of the three branches. Those guys and gals in black are there because of some President's nomination... and Congressional approval. And once they are in, they are in for a term of "good behavior." Whatever that means. (Means they have to generally exercise ethical conduct. Folks have been impeached for alcoholism in the past in the judicial branch... and some other unsavory activities.) And if they are impeached, remember... that is 2/3s of both chamber doing their thing. You better have broad, bipartisan support. I view this as meaning that the justices do not have to fear being impeached for political reasons, especially if they are accused of being overtly political in their decisions.
Um, ahem. That is the way it is supposed to be. But we'll get back to that in a few.
Think about it like this, too. Eisenhower is famously cited as saying that Earl Warren was the biggest mistake of his presidency... not for Warren's role in advancing civil rights, but for Warren's track record on criminal law. (And that quote... it's apocryphal... but he probably said something pretty darn similar to that.)
2.) The SCOTUS, in trying to interpret laws, has a strong track record of ruling on the behalf of the minority. Think about it... at least in recent years, we have seen legislation undone by the Courts despite strong, popular support... things like:
They have to rule for the minority. That is the peculiar function that the courts were crafted to accomplish. While there is little in the Constitution about courts, aside from establishing jurisdiction, the Supreme Courts, terms for judges, and allowing Congress authority to craft an efficient legal system... The fact that these folks have "life" terms that are isolated from politics gives them the ability to make calls that are politically unpopular with the majority.
And while the courts have assumed the right of Judicial Review courtesy of the Marshall court, it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution. This implied has become one of the largest swords the courts wield, and is firmly established in American jurisprudence.
The amazingly beautiful thing about this branch's personality is pretty much exactly how Madison intended it. Madison and the other founding fathers constructed a branch that was unique in human history. An independent branch with powers separate from the others (unlike the Crown's courts in England, or the non-permanent courts under the Articles)... in which the court was there to judge actions against natural rights and precedent. The fact that Marshall enabled a check that actually erased illegal actions is truly another completion of this power.
So, as we continue through the court units we begin and end our reflections here.
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.