Students should learn impeachment in school. Here’s how to make it work.
McAvory is an asssistant professor of Social Studies Education at North Carolina State University.
When Congress weighs whether to impeach the president, it is a question of national urgency.
Teachers can help their students understand the impeachment hearings by cultivating the skills required to consider the evidence. They can also help young Americans understand why people see this process in different ways – often based on their political views. Many teachers do this by devoting some time every week to helping students make sense of what is happening.
I've been either teaching social studies or researching civics education for the past 25 years. Based on this experience, I have three suggestions for teachers who are grappling with the challenge and ethics of bringing politics into the classroom at this divisive moment in the nation's history.
Emphasize history: It makes sense to start by brushing up on what the Founders of the U.S. government intended.
Depending on how old their students are, teachers can start by explaining or reviewing the process of impeachment as described in the Constitution.
They can also study other relevant documents.
A good one is Federalist No. 65, in which Alexander Hamilton argued that impeachable offenses involve the "abuse or violation of some public trust" and "injuries done immediately to the society itself." Returning to these documents provides insight into what was meant by "high crimes and misdemeanors."
Another is Federalist No. 69, in which Hamilton outlined the ways in which the Constitution limits the power of the president. Among these are that a president has term limits, can be impeached and can be tried for crimes once removed from office.
Understanding the purpose of impeachment helps students keep up with the news and consider the charges being brought.
Study original sources: Teachers ought to ask their students to read the documents and testimony coming before the public.
To that end, teachers may ask students to read parts of the whistleblower's account, opening statements of people testifying before congressional committees and show video excerpts from witnesses' testimony.
Studying these original sources is a civics lesson in and of itself. Students see members of Congress in action, how professionals answer questions and the importance of speaking and writing clearly.
Of course students, like virtually all citizens, can't make the time to watch all of the proceedings. They must also rely on reporting from news outlets – creating an opportunity to enhance their news literacy.
Teachers can help students become more adept news consumers by watching testimony and then looking at how it is reported by different news sources. Students can then discuss whether the reporting accurately reflects their impressions of what they read and viewed.
Address polarization: It may be tempting to think that a teacher could just "stick to the facts" of this impeachment inquiry. But that is not possible or desirable.
Consider the question, "Did Ukraine interfere in the 2016 election?" Is this a credible possibility, as the president contends?
Or is that theory, to use former White House adviser Fiona Hill's characterization, a "fictional narrative"?
A teacher will have to be ready to a help students sort fact from fiction and identify the political motives behind these views.The reality is that young people are growing up in a politically polarized country. In my view, if students are going to be prepared for that reality, then educators need to teach about partisanship and ideology.
Though, they may be worried about doing that.
The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, found in a 2011 survey that Republicans and Democrats have strikingly different views about what should be taught in civics. Republicans are more supportive of emphasizing facts and how the government works. Democrats are more supportive of teaching values like equality and tolerance.
It's no wonder then, that teachers may be avoiding discussions about impeachment.
They may also fear that they do not have the support of administrators. My coauthors and I found in a 2016 report on social studies standards that 43 states expect students to learn about political parties, but only 10 connected that learning to contemporary issues.
The greatest challenge for teachers is that, though impeachment is a question of national urgency, it also aggravates partisan divides. Despite these trends, I have written about and researched with the dean of University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Education, Diana Hess how teachers do find ways to engage students in political discussion in ways that their parents and other members of their communities support.
We found that the most successful teachers prepare students with context, evidence and the opportunity to discuss. Young people told us that this approach made them more engaged, more interested in politics and more willing to discuss politics with family and friends.
It's not possible to know just yet how many students are getting this opportunity to learn about civics and history through the prism of this impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.
Even when not required at the state level, local policies typically require every high school student to take at least one course that includes learning about the Constitution. A study by the Brookings Institution, a think tank, that reviewed 2010 federal data found that 82 percent of high school students said they had discussed current events at least once or twice a month and 63 percent said they discussed them at least weekly in class.
My experience shows that teachers often feel like they don't have enough time to teach their regular curriculum and do justice to current events. Ideally, history and civics teachers can connect the inquiry to other lessons about presidential power, checks and balances or the Cold War.
Still, there are times in which the issues of the day deserve everyone's attention. Even elementary school students can learn from current events, if adults are willing to take the time to engage them. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Click here to read the original article.
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In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.
The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.
With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.
This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.
Laura Williamson says her career was shaped by growing up in North Carolina, which she describes as being historically at the center of the best and worst of American democracy. She spent seven years working with young people at progressive groups and got a master's in public affairs at Princeton before joining Demos in the summer of 2018. The think tank aims to combat "threats to democracy, racial equity and economic inclusion" and as a senior policy analyst she's focused on voter registration, voting rights, money in politics and civic participation. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?
Abolishing all disenfranchisement schemes and achieving an inclusive, multiracial democracy.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Testifying at the North Carolina General Assembly against cuts to funding for vocational education. The woodworking classes I took throughout high school were among the most formative of my public school education, so as a high school senior I advocated for their continued funding to lawmakers in Raleigh.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
It's actually a triumph-in-progress. At Demos, we are privileged to work with powerful grassroots leaders redefining democracy and pushing the reform conversation across the country. Alongside these Inclusive Democracy Project leaders we are dreaming and scheming about what it would take to build a truly inclusive democracy — without limiting ourselves by what's perceived as politically feasible or reasonable — and to chart a radical reform agenda that meets the challenge. Our agenda is in progress and, like all real victories, is benefitting from the efforts of many smart and talented people. Stay tuned, it'll be ready for public consumption soon!
And your most disappointing setback?
They have always come after I've not listened well enough, have brought too much ego and taken things too personally, or not followed my gut about when a process or decision felt off.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
I'm from North Carolina, where we pioneered multiracial, pro-justice fusion politics during Reconstruction, civil disobedience during the civil rights movement and franchise-expanding voting reforms since the 1990s. More recently, we have also been home to the vanguard of voter suppression and other democracy stifling tactics since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I stand on the shoulders of giants and against the abdication of our identity as democracy leaders. I also do this work because, as a white woman, I know the exclusion of entire communities from our democracy was — and is still — led by my people and, often, in my name. I work every day to undo that legacy and ongoing reality.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Learn to simultaneously practice patience and show up with urgency in all the work I do.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Impeaches and Cream
West Wing or Veep?
West Wing — for the sometimes-too-earnest belief that government can be a force for good, not the centrist politics!
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Turn on do not disturb.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I'm deeply terrified by karaoke.
Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.
With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.
Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.
Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.
I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.
Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.