The State of the State

by Mary Ellen Daneels, Civics Instructional Specialist
This week, the Illinois Civics Hub turned its attention to Illinois state politics by hosting the WBEZ Government and Politics team for an hour webinar on “the state of the state.” WBEZ Political Editor Alex Keefe was joined by state political reporters Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold to provide an overview of, “key issues in Springfield, the latest politics – and how to keep up.” Topics included redistricting, the Commonwealth Edison scandal, calls for ethics reform, new leadership in the General Assembly, rumblings about who is running in 2022, and the financial challenges facing the Land of Lincoln. If you missed the webinar, you can access a recording to watch at your convenience.

Illinois School Code requires students to receive instruction on the state constitution in both middle and high school. This webinar provided context for #CivicsInTheMiddle classrooms to make direct instruction on the government institutions in the state of Illinois come to life with discussions of current and societal issues, employing the proven practices of the civics course requirements.

The webinar with WBEZ was a great opportunity to celebrate News Literacy Week. The webinar concluded with Political Editor Alex Keefe sharing tips for combating misinformation and disinformation as well and the journalistic practices his team employs to prevent “fake news.” For more tools to help students be wise consumers and producers of information, visit the Illinois Civics Media Literacy Toolkit.

Resources to teach Illinois state government are less readily available than resources for teaching about the federal government. Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches were asked to share some of the resources they use to teach about “the state of the state.”
  • Candace Fikis from Oswego explains, “The Judy Baar Topinka Charitable Foundation has a website with digital resources on Illinois history and government, great for remote or hybrid learning.
  • Tracy Freeman from Normal recommends, “AJS Publications. They have a base level workbook that discusses the constitutions of the national and state governments. I requested a copy, they sent me several for my student teachers and new teachers. Like the Handbook of the Illinois Government, it is updated with the current election and is fairly inexpensive. The nuts and bolts are there.”
  • Corie Yow from Chatham likes to use iCivics. “It provides lesson plans for both middle and high school students on state government, state powers, state law-making process, and county government. It also offers a game simulation called Counties Work.”
What resources do you use to teach about state and local government? Please comment below. Together, we can prepare all students for college, career, and civic life.

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