Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers
Public Policy and the Federal Budget Public Policy and the Federal Budget — Other Lessons
Dividing the Federal Pie
For a simplified version of the lesson taught by Leslie Martin, visit http://www.kowaldesign.com/budget. Here you will find an interactive site that allows students to select from among several predetermined percentages for each of the following expenditure categories: State Department, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security Administration, Interest on the National Debt, and Other. These amounts must add up to 100 percent. Students may then bring up another screen that shows the actual current Federal budget to ascertain how close they came to reality. This can be used as an independent or cooperative learning activity.
Budget Cutting vs. Revenue Generation
Divide students into 14 pairs or small groups, each representing a single department in the executive branch, e.g., Health and Human Services, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, and so forth. Provide time for students to research the work of the department and its current budget via the Internet site noted above. Announce or distribute the following scenario to students:
A recent natural disaster has created a need for a large amount of money for emergency aid that is not in the present federal budget. The aid will go to a wide variety of purposes: housing and feeding families; repairing the infrastructure (roads, bridges, water systems, etc.) of the area; building new local, state, and federal facilities that were lost in the disaster; helping businesses get back on their feet; and so forth. The total amount of the federal budget cannot be changed, unless additional revenue is generated. For the moment, the President has directed each executive department to cut its budget by one percent.
Each pair or small group must decide where in its department budget the cut will be made and why. Provide time for each department to present its solution to the rest of the class and to answer any questions that fellow students may have on their proposed solution.
On the next day, divide students into cooperative learning groups of roughly five students each. Given the same scenario as previously, groups should brainstorm alternatives for federal revenue-generating activities that might be used to fill the funding gap created by the natural disaster. List these solutions on the board as groups report out. Discuss which solution would be the least damaging to the political standing of the President.
For homework, have each student write a one-page essay on which solution they prefer: revenue cutting or revenue generating, and tell why they think it is a better way to solve the problem.
Supporting Materials: Workshop 3: Public Policy and the Federal Budget
Supplemental materials for educators
Workshop 1 Freedom of Religion
Ninth-grade civics teacher Kristen Borges involves her students at Southwest High School in Minnesota in a simulation of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on a First Amendment case. Students assume the roles of Supreme Court justices, attorneys for the school district, and attorneys for the families. They first work in groups to prepare for the hearing, then participate in the hearing, and finally, debrief their experiences and write short papers stating their positions on the case. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include questioning strategies and mock trials.
Workshop 2 Electoral Politics
This program shows the conclusion of a 12-week civic engagement unit developed by the national Student Voices program. José Velazquez's 12th-grade students at University High School in New Jersey divide into small groups to brainstorm and research community issues, prioritize the issues on the basis of what they have learned, present their findings to the class both orally and through a visual presentation, and develop a whole-class consensus on a youth agenda that they present to the mayoral candidates in a televised question-and-answer forum. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include issue identification and consensus building.
Workshop 3 Public Policy and the Federal Budget
Leslie Martin's ninth-graders at West Forsyth High School in North Carolina create, present, revise, and defend a federal budget, and then reflect on what they have learned. After assuming the roles of the President and his or her advisors to create a federal budget, students are introduced to the actual 2001 federal budget, and in a whole-class discussion, discuss some key concepts involved in creating it. Next, students return to cooperative learning groups, revise their budgets based on what they learned, present their revised budgets, and simulate a Congressional hearing. This lesson highlights the integration of teacher-directed instruction with small-group work.
Workshop 4 Constitutional Convention
Matt Johnson teaches an AP Comparative Government class to seniors at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, DC. In this lesson, his 12th-grade students create a constitution for a hypothetical country called Permistan. Matt Johnson uses this lesson to help students review for their final exam and the AP exam by having them draw on what they have learned during the semester about international governments. Students work in cooperative learning groups to discuss and debate issues relating to the executive and legislative branches of government. The lesson closes with a simulation of a constitutional convention. Simulation is the primary methodology highlighted in this lesson.
Workshop 5 Patriotism and Foreign Policy
The students in this program are seniors at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a public magnet school in Washington, DC. In this lesson, U.S. government teacher Alice Chandler has her students create a Museum of Patriotism and Foreign Policy. The lesson alternates between whole-class discussion and small-group committee work as students create a gallery for the museum using their respective arts concentration as the medium. The lesson concludes with students presenting their gallery contributions in dance, music, theatrical performances, and visual presentations, along with rationales for their selections. This lesson highlights small-group work as a constructivist methodology.
Workshop 6 Civic Engagement
This program shows a group of 11th- and 12th-grade students at Anoka High School in Minnesota engaging in service learning — a requirement for graduation. In this human geography class taught by Bill Mittlefehldt, students work in teams to define a project, choose and meet with a community partner who can help educate them about the issue and its current status, conduct further research, and present the problem and a proposed solution first to their peers, and then to a special session of the Anoka City Council. The primary methodology presented in this lesson is service learning.
Workshop 7 Controversial Public Policy Issues
In this 12th-grade law class at Champlin Park High School in Minnesota, JoEllen Ambrose engages students in a structured discussion of a highly controversial issue — racial profiling — and connects student learning both to their study of due process in constitutional law and police procedure in criminal law. Students begin by completing an opinion poll, which they discuss as a group. Students are then put into pairs in which they conduct research on the topic. Next, students participate in a debate in which each partnership argues both sides of the issue. A debriefing discussion completes the lesson. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include role playing and structured academic controversy.
Workshop 8 Rights and Responsibilities of Students
Students in Matt Johnson's 12th-grade law course at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, DC, engage in a culminating activity to help them review and apply what they have learned. Students write and distribute one-page briefs of Supreme Court cases they have studied. Next, students are assigned to small groups and given hypothetical cases related to student rights cases from the Supreme Court's 2001-2002 term. Students prepare their cases and present them to the Justices. Justices deliberate and present majority and dissenting opinions, after which the class discusses both the process and the disposition of the cases. This lesson highlights the use of case studies for synthesis and analysis.
Supporting Materials Introduction: Making Civics Real
Supplemental material for educators/facilitators