American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Projects, Required Documents, Teachable Moments

The State of the Union Twitter Party

Article II, Section 3

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…”

Well, this State of the Union address has been mired by the government shutdown and a disinvite to the chambers by the Speaker, so at this point I wonder when and if it will happen. Regardless of this, I wanted to think of an extra assignment that students could participate in that would require them to apply their knowledge.

In my younger teacher days, I have been guilty of giving a bingo card with just words, which in it’s own right it fun, but I wanted something this year that would require them to show what they know, not just check off a box when they hear the word. I also want to keep this as scientific as possible, and less political.

In the past, my students have used Twitter and our class hashtag. So this year, I’ve decided to plan a SOTU Twitter party. You can also do this in class without technology as you watch a SOTU speech. Since the current year is up in the air, teachers can use older speeches and paper BINGO cards.


Objective:

Students will watch the State of the Union (current or past) and find examples of the main concepts of the unit to show understanding of current application of the concepts from Unit One: Foundations of Democracy. {This can also be done with basically all other units from AP Government}

Warm-Up: The History of the State of the Union. Fun facts and a quick overview on what the State of the Union is.

Concepts: (You can use more or less depending on where you are in your units. I teach semester classes so we just finished Unit One) Students can fill out their own BINGO sheets.

  1. Participatory democracy
  2. Pluralist democracy
  3. Elitism
  4. Federalism
  5. Popular sovereignty
  6. Check and balances
  7. Separation of powers
  8. Limited government
  9. Enumerated powers
  10. Implied powers
  11. Inherent powers
  12. Reserved powers
  13. Fiscal federalism
  14. Mandates (funded or unfunded)
  15. Grants

Two examples of each

  1. Examples from Brutus I
  2. Examples from Federalist 10
  3. Examples from Federalist 51

 

On the back, reflect on observations from the speech. Where there times some people stood and some did not? Who was there and who was notably absent? What was the tone of the speech? What is important to the President and how do you know that?


During the SOTU address, students will check off boxes as they write down the example of the concept mentioned. For the Twitter Party, students will use our class hashtag and #SOTU. We will do a live tweet so as soon as they hit a BINGO, they can claim it! (for extra points) This gives students opportunities to participate in a positive social media experience. I will set guidelines for our class hashtag, as I learned my lesson last semester.

Tweets will look like this: Checks and Balances, the President mentioned his veto power over the federal budget because he ultimately approves or vetos laws Congress makes. #sotu #apschley19

*You can do this in class as they watch or with a live SOTU. The possibilities for engagement are endless!

As an assignment, I will give it the week because not every student can watch the speech live. I’d like to have a whole class discussion once this is done to ensure students see different examples from

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LBJ Library

My hopes for this is it allows students to take a non-partisan look at the speech and be scientific about their observations. If you have a particularly political area you teach in, taking an old speech may help. This is the first evening televised speech by LBJ or you can have students choose their own. The main point here is to find examples that illustrate the concepts.

*** Update February 5***

Since we were able to go over the roles of the Presidency, I updated the assignment to reflect.  This can be used in class with any assignment and changed to not include social media.

 

How do your students interact with the State of the Union speech? What has worked for you in the past?

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Pacificus and Helvidius– or Why Hamilton and Madison broke up.

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of being on the Bill of Rights Teacher Council. It’s a fun gig and I highly recommend working with this organization.

With that being said, I was able to attend a colloquium on Liberty and Executive Power. The group of teachers was amazing and I had such a great time. The best part is, I learned SO MUCH!

I never really knew what made Madison and Hamilton “break up”. I always just brushed over it and figured Jefferson somehow convinced Madison to become a Democratic Republican and they all lived politically ever after.

Enter Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation, April 22, 1793.

Madison was a member of the House at this time, and Hamilton was Treasury Secretary so we can see how this will start out.

To start with this, we will look at the powers vested in the Executive, as well as enumerated in the Legislative. After we have a good read on that, we look at the Neutrality Proclamation and ask “Can he do that? Where does the power to declare neutrality lie?” (Spoiler alert: there’s no straight answer yet)

*Please note that I’ve already gone over Federalist 70 with students and will be asking them to refer back to it

Then, I’ll ask the following {straight from my reader} to keep students focused during their research time:

Does the general grant of executive power in Article II imply more than the enumerated powers that follow in the article? Are Congress’s powers to declare war and its participation in the making of treaties simply exceptions out of the general executive power vested in the President? How does the enumeration of powers in Article II differ from Article I?

The most important part of this is not telling students who did the writing. One group will get Pacificus and the other will get Helvidius. You can use the excerpts from TAH.org and break up the pieces of it. I’ll be honest, Hamilton is WORDY, but what he says matters. Personally, I like reading Madison because he’s much more organized.

This can be done at home or in class, depending on what works best for your class.

And magically, this can turn into argumentative writing!

Defend or refute the claim that the Executive has the power to declare neutrality. Use evidence from the documents to back your thesis. 

What made this so great for me was that I was an actual participant in the learning. I had never read these pieces before, so becoming the student made it more meaningful for me.

The Bill of Rights Institute updates their seminars here and I strongly urge you to check them out AND to take a look the Founder’s Fellowship for next year once it comes out. To keep updated sign up for the Bill of Rights Newsletter here! Don’t miss out!

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

Wrapping Up with Lessons in the Judiciary

It’s been 9 weeks since we started school and I am half way through the semester and the redesign. I’m tired and unsure, but after giving the FRQ and the unit test, I’m feeling a bit better about how I’ve taught this quarter. If you are struggling or doubting yourself, chances are you are doing an amazing job and putting way too much stress on yourself. We all do it. We are teachers and want to do what is best for our students.

This past few weeks, the Judiciary Committee has given us plenty to discuss in the way of their power of “advice and consent” One of the reasons I love/despise teaching AP Government is because each day is something new. We watched the hearing a bit to see the interaction of Congressional committees the executive pick for the judiciary and discussed how politics plays into the questions the Senators act, or who we think will run for President in 2020 based on their mini speeches they give before they ask the questions for the nominee.

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Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP

Within my week of the judiciary, we also had our Congressman come and talk to the students, leaving me with 4 days to teach my favorite branch of government. I gave the usual notes and carried on because after my time at Street Law’s Summer Institute I feel like I could go on forever, but I wanted to focus on the interactions of the branches, so I turned to FDR for help.

Federalist 78 is one of our required documents. I didn’t have students read this one because they are burnt out on documents. We did a quick video before moving on to FDR’s Fireside Chat on the Plan for Reorganization of the Judiciary

Because we were short on time, I let the students know that they needed to read this on their own as it would be a part of their FRQ. Next semester, I plan to make this a Socratic discussion because it ties the two branches in very nicely.

Concept Analysis FRQ:

“What is my proposal? It is simply this: whenever a Judge or Justice of any Federal Court has reached the age of seventy and does not avail himself of the opportunity to retire on a pension, a new member shall be appointed by the President then in office, with the approval, as required by the Constitution, of the Senate of the United States.
That plan has two chief purposes. By bringing into the judicial system a steady and continuing stream of new and younger blood, I hope, first, to make the administration of all Federal justice speedier and, therefore, less costly; secondly, to bring to the decision of social and economic problems younger men who have had personal experience and contact with modern facts and circumstances under which average men have to live and work. This plan will save our national Constitution from hardening of the judicial arteries.
The number of Judges to be appointed would depend wholly on the decision of present Judges now over seventy, or those who would subsequently reach the age of seventy.”
Fireside Chat Discussing the Plan for Reorganization of the Judiciary, President Franklin D. Roosevelt; March 9, 1937
 After reading the above, respond to the questions below.
  1. Explain Hamilton’s view of the judiciary in Federalist 78. (1 points)
  2. Compare your answers in Part A with FDR’s view of the judiciary from the above reading. (2 points)
  3. Using your knowledge of the Constitution, evaluate the constitutionality of FDR’s plan. (2 points)

Students had a harder time on the second FRQ, so on Monday {we are testing this week} we are going to go over it again, just in a different way, together. We are going to talk about this as a class so they understand what was expected of them on the original. I did give three different questions, as I have three different classes.

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Doug Mills/The New York Times

I am looking forward to doing this again next semester, but changing it up a bit to better use my time!

What is your favorite lesson on the judiciary?

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

The New York Times Op-Ed in AP Government

Over the last few days {years}, most AP Government teachers have steeled themselves, taken a deep breath, and walked into their classrooms. This is one of the best jobs because, regardless of the administration, we have a lot of current things happening that marry nicely with our curriculum. However, sometimes you really wonder if it’s something that you want to or should discuss.

This morning, I came to work early because I knew it was going to be a topic the students wanted to talk about and I wanted to be prepared.

Enter the New York Times Op-Ed. *Note: my students have just finished The Presidency, and are half way through the bureaucracy. I feel this is important because they have an understanding of the two pieces of government that are discussed.

I’ve read it a few times and listened to today’s installment of The Daily I’ve hemmed and hawked over whether or not to discuss it, as we haven’t hit our media unit yet.

But, I decided to go for it. Just not today. I’d like for it all to percolate over the weekend. I want my students to read it and do further research on their own so they can develop their own opinions. There is mention of the bureaucracy insulating themselves from the administration. And I want them to brush up on the 25th amendment because of it’s mention in the article.

Not to mention, we have a lot to do today.

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Basically, I’m taking something that is controversial and getting very medical with it. Meaning, we are dissecting it for examples, but not getting into a debate about it or throwing out opinions that have yet to be formed. I want to give them all the information I can and let them decide. There is no right and wrong way to teach this (ok, maybe there are lots of wrong ways) and YOU know YOUR students best.

Prompt: (Writing or Class Discussion)

Using the information in the article:

A. Identify two expressed powers of the President.

B. Explain how the bureaucracy  implements policy and how they are checked by Congress and the President.

C. Explain how the check on the President from the executive branch is illustrated via the 25th amendment. Here is another article from NPR.

I am going to do C as a class discussion as to better guide the students. I do not want this to turn into a bashing of the administration or the President. It’s not a productive use of my class time. I believe it’s my job to teach them HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Since my students are only at where they are, I do not feel they are ready to adequately discuss the media aspect, but that will come in the next unit.

 

 

Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development, Writing for AP Gov

The American Presidency

On August 28, I had the pleasure of attending a Teaching American History Seminar on Executive Powers. I always appreciate going to these because it opens my eyes to new documents to use. (Full Document of Readings)

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These were the readings we were required to complete beforehand. I appreciated this because it forced me to look at documents I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Documents I will use in my AP class:

  • Federalist 70
  • FDR “Fireside Chat Reorganizing the Judiciary” *I will use this to bridge between the Presidency and the Judiciary
  • War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto

I actually came back to school the next day and was just starting the executive powers. This was a great way to start off the roles and powers of the executive. The students read through the War Powers Resolution the day I was gone, and came back and read Nixon’s Veto with me. We had a brief discussion on what the president’s power was and how this evolved through the 20th century to dealing with ideologies as opposed to just countries.

I decided to use these documents for an argumentative essay. I plan to have a Socratic seminar first to really allow students to develop their ideas. I don’t plan to give them the prompt per se, but I will let them know they need to make sure they reference these documents. I often take for granted that my students need help to really develop ideas.  find I get much better writing when

Prompt: Using your knowledge of the War Powers Resolution and Nixon’s Veto, develop an argument that explains the Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution as it relates to the roles of the Executive and Legislative branches.

In your essay you must:

  • Articulate a defensible claim or thesis that responds to the prompt and establishes a line of reasoning.
  • Support your claim with at least TWO pieces of accurate and relevant information
    • At least ONE piece of evidence must be from one of the following foundational documents:
      • US Constitution
      • Federalist 51
      • Federalist 70
    • Use a second piece of evidence from another foundation document from the list or from your study of the Constitution.
  • Use reasoning to explain why your evidence supports your claim/thesis.
  • Respond to an opposing or alternative perspective using refutation, concession, or rebuttal.

I really enjoy these seminars because it requires me to learn more about the documents and it gives me more insight for my class. I can’t even count how many I’ve been to at this point!

TAH has webinars and explores Documents in Detail. I use these to help my students but also to make me a better teacher!

This year, I will focus on the following:

  • Federalist and Antifederalist (Saturday webinar- September 8)
  • Brutus I (October 24)

There are many others both upcoming and past that are super helpful for our class! Registration is free, and even if you can’t make the time, they will send you a copy of it. There is a podcast as well! Just search Teaching American History.

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You just have to love PD that you can turn around to use in your classroom immediately!

American Political Ideologies and Beliefs, Foundations of American Democracy, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Writing for AP Gov

For Whom The Bell Tolls- John McCain

John McCain has been the Arizona senator since I have lived in the great state of Arizona. Senator McCain is one of my favorite people, not only because he has had a cameo on Parks and Recreation, or that he’s a hero in my eyes, but because he is one of the people in Congress that I truly admire. His ability to have and maintain friendships across the aisle, his humility and ability to say he’s imperfect, and his dedication to his county is second to none.

I encourage you to watch For Whom The Bell Tolls on HBO. It shows an age of politics that is slowly becoming extinct. This is evident in his speech to the Senate on July 25. John McCain gave his life for the service of this country. In my eyes, he is a true American hero.

My AP class is wrapping up Congress and as an Arizona citizen and teacher, I felt that closing it with the speech is the best tribute to our Senator. The prompt I wrote is also a good lead into the Presidency.

This speech is incredible, and it fits in with so many of our standards and a FRQ practice fits in nicely.

1. Argumentative Essay Prompt:

Senator John McCain addressed a full Senate in July of 2017. Some have compared this speech to Washington’s Farewell address. Defend or refute the statement that John McCain’s speech to the Senate was the modern day Farewell Address. (John McCain read Washington’s Farewell Address to the Senate on February 16, 1987 in a tradition that is carried out each year by a different Senator)

Use the following documents:

  • Washington’s Farewell Address
  • Federalist 10
  • US Constitution
  • Article 1, Section 8

** I am giving my students Washington’s Farewell Address and McCain’s Speech.

2. Writing prompt: Using Senator McCain’s speech, find examples of the following:

  • Checks and Balances
  • Separation of Powers (Federalist 51)
  • Roles of the Senate (Constitution)

Thank you, Senator McCain for your dedication to our state and our country.

Interactions Among Branches of Government

What Happens When A Justice Retires?

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” -Justice Anthony Kennedy, majority opinion Obergefell v. Hodges.

 

Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement as of July 31. At 81, he has made the decision to step down at the end of July. Kennedy has been a crucial swing vote on cases such as Obergefell v Hodges {14th amendment case requiring the recognition of gay marriage in all states}. He has upheld Roe v. Wade (1992). At times, he has sided with conservatives as in the recent travel ban case. Justice Kennedy was a man of his own principles, leaning both ways.

So now what?

When a seat is open, it’s not as if it hasn’t been thought of prior to. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden passing, the seat was open for awhile. It was a Presidential election year, and Republicans did not have a hearing for Merrick Garland (a potential nominee for this seat). Because the Republicans have control of the two main operatives in this, we likely will not see a delay. *I could be wrong*

The President has a short list of vetted nominees that the Department of Justice has looked at. This list always exists so that the President is ready to go with a valid nominee. Politico has it’s thoughts, as do most media venues. Only time will tell.

The President will announce a potential nominee to the Court possibly this summer. At this point, the Senate is responsible for hearings and confirmation. Article 2, Section 2 reads that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the supreme Court.” The Senate Judiciary Committee (a standing committee chaired by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, R)investigates and holds a hearing. This is the stuff you see on C-Span or your nightly news. After this, the committee can report favorably or unfavorably to the Senate and a simple majority is needed. At this time, there are 51 Republican Senators (same party as the President). Because there is an election forthcoming, there may be a rush to confirm the new justice.

Justice Kennedy will join {my personal hero} Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Justice Souter, and Justice John Paul Stevens (and his adorable bow ties which he wore when I saw him in Court) in retirement.

Article III of the Constitution allows for judges on the Federal Courts to serve on good behavior. This is viewed as a lifetime appointment, which makes the next nominee very important in Constitutional history.

Resources:

American Bar Association

Federalist 78

Senate List of Nominees throughout the years

Donald Trump and the federal judiciary (Podcast)

** This session was a surprise for me. I always thought the last Monday in June was it. But this term showed me “but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin