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Showing posts from October, 2016

Veteran Reporter David Yepsen on Covering and Teaching Political Campaigns

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Following a conversation with Dr. John Jackson at SIU-Carbondale, I sat down with David Yepsen, Director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and long-time political columnist for the Des Moines Register. David was long viewed as the dean of Iowa journalists and a critical gate keeper for any presidential candidate testing his mettle in the Iowa Caucuses.

David began by providing his own reflections on the 2016 presidential contest, pointing to high unfavorable ratings among the two major party presidential nominees. He also weighs in on the remaining work for each of them in the final sprint to the finish line in order to secure victory. I also asked David to comment on Donald Trump’s competitiveness in Iowa and Illinois’ likely preference for home state candidate Hillary Clinton.




David later pivoted to down ballot races, including the competitive Illinois U.S. Senate race and the proxy war among state legislative candidates in S…

SIU Professor John Jackson Provides a Historical Perspective on the 2016 Election

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. John Jackson, Professor of Political Science, during a visit to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale late last month. Dr. Jackson is affiliated with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, a long-time partner of ours in bringing civic education opportunities to Southern Illinois teachers and students. He directs the Institute’s internship program, edits the Simon Review, and assists with its annual statewide poll.

Dr. Jackson has researched and written extensively about the presidential nominating process and party conventions, with a specific focus on delegates. He weighs in on the process across time in the following segment, and also provides an extensive retrospective on the 2016 cycle.




As Election Day fast approaches, Dr. Jackson comments on the road ahead for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in her attempt to persuade millennial voters that supported Sanders. He also draws historical…

Read the Fine Print for Road Funding Amendment

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
While legislative redistricting reform will not be on the Illinois ballot on November 8, a late-breaking, under-the-radar amendment to protect the road building revenue stream from encroachment by the General Assembly and Governor made the grade.

The language of the amendment, reads, in part:
“No moneys, including bond proceeds, derived from taxes, fees, excises, or license taxes relating to registration, title, or operation or use of vehicles, or related to the use of highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, airports, or to fuels used for propelling vehicles, or derived from taxes, fees, excises, or license taxes relating to any other transportation infrastructure or transportation operation, shall be expended for purposes other than…” transportation infrastructure or mass transit. Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution permits the General Assembly to pass constitutional amendments by a 3/5 vot…

ICSS Fall Conference a Landslide Winner

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
The Illinois Council for the Social Studies (ICSS) held its fall conference last Friday at Harper College in Palatine. 144 in- and pre-service teachers attended, collectively casting their votes for this year’s election-oriented theme. They accessed a combined 32 breakout sessions, four of them featuring members of our #CivicsIsBack Campaign, including two led by our Illinois Civics Teacher Mentors.

Lead Teacher Mentor Mary Ellen Daneels paired with Boone-Winnebago Mentor Teresa Kruger for a session on current and controversial issues. Daneels later worked with West Cook Mentor Justin Jacobek (pictured below) on a legislative simulation surrounding automatic voter registration. Wayde Grinstead of Facing History and Ourselves, one of our core civic education organizational partners, presented a session on their Choices in Little Rock curriculum.


My own session was on engaging students with the public policy process that follows elections as…

A Call to Educators' Consciences in a Campaign that Challenges Them and Us

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
When crafting the roll out of the #CivicsIsBack Campaign, we made a conscious decision to pair our course implementation efforts with the teachable moment that is the 2016 Election. There’s nothing like the prominence of and participation in a presidential election, and on this level, the current campaign hasn’t disappointed.

However, the campaign has defied convention at every juncture and tested pedagogical commitments to objectivity and non-closure of teachers’ political views. While we have written previously on these subjects, it would constitute professional malpractice to rest our case in light of recent developments.

At the presidential level, the 2016 campaign has been historic for both parties. A crowded Republican field of 17 contenders, paired with grossly disproportionate media coverage, paved the way for political novice Donald Trump to capture the party’s nomination over fierce establishment opposition. Trump has proceede…

Draft Illinois ESSA Implementation Plan Provides Opening for Civic Learning

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning ScholarLast Wednesday, I had the privilege of providing public comments at the final Illinois Statewide Listening Tour stop in Sycamore for the draft implementation plan crafted by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) as part of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). I spoke in my role as chair of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition (ICMC), Illinois Task Force on Civic Education, and Illinois Social Science Standards Task Force. An excerpt of my remarks follow. "...We are heartened by (ISBE’s ESSA implementation plan’s) emphasis on educating the whole child, opportunities for extensive teacher professional development, and specific acknowledgement of the value of mentoring programs like the one we created (to support teachers, schools, and districts with implementation of the new civics course requirement).

Ongoing needs with respect to course and standards implementation are as follows, and we invite further collaboration with …

Teaching the 2016 Election: Youth Participation in Elections, Part III

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
We conclude this three-part series on youth participation in elections by revisiting the second part of a quote from former Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

“They don’t vote because very often they’re lazy, and they’re too busy playing with their little machines… They’re just too in tune with texting and not in tune with what’s going on around them.”

Having refuted the laziness claim, we turn next to “their little machines.”

It’s true, young people are almost universally using social media sites, but so are growing numbers of older generational cohorts.


And much of what transpires on social media is “friendship-driven” engagement, with few direct implications for democracy. Yet friendship-driven engagement has the potential of building “bridging” social capital, a foundation for civic engagement.

Moreover, a majority of social media users also engage in “interest-driven” participation, from posting online commentary to creating …

Teaching the 2016 Election: Youth Participation in Elections, Part II

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by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar
Last week, we laid the groundwork for youth participation in elections. Today, we take a historic view of the subject, and then apply it to the 2016 Election.

Let’s begin with the notion that voting is unique when compared to other forms of civic participation like volunteering, contacting public officials, or keeping up with political news. It’s the one thing that most of us do (at least every four years) and it’s the most equitable form of civic participation. Moreover, it doesn’t serve as a gateway drug in that the act of voting leads to other forms of participation.

Since 18 year olds were granted the right to vote in 1972, youth turnout has always lagged that of their elders. Voting tends to follow a life-cycle effect, starting slow and peaking in the plus-65 population before leveling off late in life. Youth turnout does ebb and flow over time, as it does across the electorate, largely responsive to the competitiveness of a given el…