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Showing posts from October, 2020

Engaging Students on Election Night

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
With less than one week until the General Election, #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms across the Land of Lincoln are preparing students to consume and engage with the election results through candidate research projects, deliberations over the Illinois Graduated Income Tax Amendment, mock elections, and Electoral College simulations. While our Election 2020 Toolkit at IllinoisCivics.org has helped in each of these endeavors, our latest #Teach2020 webinar focused on how to engage students on election night.

There are many “known unknowns” as we creep towards November 3 including: Is it still all about Florida, Florida, Florida? What are the states to watch on election night?Will we have a presidential winner when we go to bed on November 3?Will Gen Z make a difference in the race to the White House?What impact will recent court rulings around mail-in ballots in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have on election returns?Who will wi…

Local Journalism and the Citizens’ Agenda

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
There are a plethora of resources for #CivicsInTheMIddle classrooms to teach about the upcoming presidential election. However, when it comes to local and state races, curating information for students to analyze can be more of a challenge. This is ironic because many of the issues young people and their communities at large care about are decided closer to home and not in the White House (see image below).

IllinoisCivics.org hosted reporters from WBEZ in Chicago to explore the role of local journalism in preparing voters for #Election2020. Political editor Alex Keefe, state politics reporter Dave McKinney, and investigative reporter Dan Mihalopoulos provided unique insights to educators on: What races and issues WBEZ is covering this election cycle, and why“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”WBEZ’s Citizens’ Agenda & audience engagement journalism If you missed the webinar, you can access a recording to view and …

Keeping Up with SCOTUS

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
With the pending confirmation vote in the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and emerging issues related to voting and elections working their way through the court system, keeping up with the courts while navigating a challenging school year can be difficult for #CivicsIntheMiddle educators.

To help teachers follow the evolving court docket, identify essential questions that reflect current and societal issues and topics for moot court simulations, The American Bar Association Division for Public Education is joining with UIC Professor of Law Steven D. Schwinn (@sschwinn) to provide accessible insight into the Supreme Court — from the impact of the election to the cases before the Justices and the drama at oral argument. Classrooms can join these conversations on the ABA Public Education's Twitter for streaming videos (@abapubliced) or visit the ABA Division for Public Edu…

The Electoral College: Is there a better way?

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
The results of the 2016 presidential election put a new spotlight on the Electoral College in many civics and history classrooms. Five out of forty-five of our nation’s presidents lost the popular vote but won in the Electoral College. As illustrated in these brief point/counterpoint videos from the Bill of Rights Institute, arguments for and against Electoral College reform are compelling.

In this week’s #Teach2020 webinar, Dr. Shawn Healy, Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, examined Electoral College history, functionality, and various proposals for reform. Dr. Healy also provided an overview of how various scenarios might play out in the 2020 election given the possible challenges of counting mail-in ballots in a timely fashion. If you missed the webinar, you can access a recording to view at your convenience and visit the Election 2020 Toolkit for resources to enhance your instruction on t…

Teachers Are Trusted Guardians of Our Democracy

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by Shawn P. Healy, PhD, Democracy Program Director
Civics teachers are guardians of our democracy, the most trusted source for information on civic education according to new survey data from Frank Luntz, notable Republican pollster. Moreover, Americans of all political stripes see civic education as the most positive and impactful lever to strengthen national identity. These findings contradict recent claims by President Trump on Constitution Day at the White House Conference on American History:

The left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts…that try to make students ashamed of their own history. The left has warped, distorted, and defiled the American story with deceptions, falsehoods, and lies.

Previous empirical research suggests that social studies teachers’ political affiliations and ideologies are reflective of the communities they ser…

SCOTUS Preview

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) began its 2020-21 term this past Monday with eight members due to the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Issues such as the Affordable Care Act, Freedom of Religion, and the Unitary Executive Theory are on the docket in a possibly precedent-setting year by SCOTUS. In the midst of this activity, there is an impending contentious confirmation battle over the selection of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat.

Dr. Steven D. Schwinn joined the IllinoisCivics.org team for a SCOTUS preview in which he outlined possible implications of a “Justice Barrett” as well as cases that can be used in #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms addressing the separation of powers, federalism, and limited government. Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia involves questions around religious liberty and gay rights.California v. Texas deals with the constitutionality of the 2010 Affordable Care Act followin…

Community Building in the Virtual Classroom

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by Sue Khalaieff, Illinois Democracy Schools Network Manager
Since spring—in sharing sessions, meetings and emails—we have heard from our Democracy Schools Network members that the most challenging aspect of remote learning was building and sustaining a sense of community in virtual classrooms. In response, this August we offered two opportunities for network members to explore this challenge further. The first was “Circle Up,” a restorative circle series presented by Sarah-Bess Dworin, for Democracy Schools Network team leaders. The second was, “Building Community in a Virtual Space,” presented by Alternatives, Inc. Attendees learned about, participated in, and discussed how to create an environment in a digital space that was safe, receptive and trusting.

In the Circle Up sessions, participants learned about Circles, an indigenous and contemporary Restorative Practice that can make online meetings and classes more relational, intentional, and meaningful. Through these sessions, p…

Navigating Polls, Political Advertising and the Press in the 2020 Elections

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by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
Polls, Political Advertising and the Press, OH MY! If this week’s presidential debate is any indication, I do not think we are in Kansas anymore. A tornado of fact-checking, partisan punditry, and preliminary polling welcomed all of us as we awoke to post-debate analysis. This is why this week’s #Teach2020 webinar was well-timed with information and resources to help classrooms navigate this election season.

The webinar began with two of our Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches sharing resources they recommend for classroom use to navigate the landscape of media this campaign season. Dr. Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz from Charleston shared: Polling Pitfalls, a lesson plan from PBS NewsHour Extra. “This lesson plan helps students understand polling practices and important aspects of valid polling”Polls: Can Polls Be Trusted? An inquiry from C3 Teachers. “This is a longer inquiry that teaches about types of polls, how polling is done (an…