Yesterday I held a civics lesson for my 10th grade advisory students where I teach on the "Power of the President". I was given some materials by a colleague to use, including a cute little video on "brain pop" and some other items for discussion.
One thing I had the students do was write a letter to President Obama. First I gave them the entire transcript of his speech for reference. Happily, most of them had watched his inaugural speech already. The prompts I gave them included:
"I like it when you said…." and "I wish you would have said….". It was a great exercise in civic engagement. Some students finished their letters but others really wanted more time to do a thorough job, so I anticipate more coming in to me today. We will send them in separate envelopes and await replies.
I will share some of those letters here over the weekend.
Last night Tom and I attended the Utah Coalition for Civic, Character and Service Learning‘s “Dialogue on Democracy” at the Rice Eccles Stadium Scholarship Reception Room at the University of Utah. The event was attended by Legislators, community leaders, students, and campus administrators and was sponsored by the Hinckley Institute of Politics. Speakers included Chief Justice Christine Durham and Lt. Governer Herbert Walker, both who serve on the Utah Commission on Civic and Character Education. Senator Karen Hale presented the Civic, Chariacter, and Service Learning Award to Professor Dan Jones (also of Dan Jones & Associates, which conducts political and issue-oriented polls). Professor Jones teaches at the Hinckley Institute. Kirk Jowers, Director of the Hinckley Institute, and Norma Matheson, former First Lady of Utah, introduced the guest speaker of the evening, Larry Sabato who is Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Sabato is know for his “crystal ball” approach to predicting election outcomes. Sabato was entertaining in his style of presentation and spoke to the theme of being civically engaged and getting students to be involved.
We sat at a table with some other educators from Utah. As dinner began we were assigned to discuss these three questions:
- Identify your role in fostering I-16 civic education and civic engagements.
- What can you do individually to strengthen the civic mission of schools?
- What can be done to make politics (civic involvement) as important as American Idol?
The last question surprised me a little and really made me think. At first I was angry and sad at the same time that this question had to even be posed as a topic for thought and discussion. Tom and I both discussed, recognized, and confirmed that the focus of the media needs to change and the value of making entertainment via television a primary in-home activity needs to also change. In the meatime, what we as educators can strive to do is inspire students towards those ends to be the catalyst for change through our meaningful and carefully planned and implemented lessons and experiences in our classrooms.
Resolution on educating for Democracy
Whereas, we recognize that civic and service learning are essential to the well-being of our representative democracy and should be a central purpose of K-16 education; and
Whereas, we understand that civility, respect for the rights and viewpoints of others, and civic responsibility are vital in our representative democracy; be it there for
Resolved, that we will help instill in K-16 students the desire to become engaged citizens endowed with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and confidence to participate full in democratic life.