Political classroom

2015 National Academy: The Real Power of a Political Classroom

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The 2015 National Academy for Civics and Government crossed the finish line in Los Angeles as the summer rolled into its final act for teachers, students and their families. The first day of school is again imminent and the Academy’s alumni are returning to their classrooms with big ideas about how to talk about politics. After three weeks of relentless reading, provocative learning and sometimes heated debate, alumni leveraged the work of a long summer seminar to present their own answers to some very big questions about our political life together. Panel teams worked together to articulate the tension embedded…

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Places to Go: Dr. Seuss and the Politicolors

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Like any great model, the strength of the politicolors pairs their simplicity with their potential for greater interpretation.  The collective works of Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss are just the same.  In my second year of utilizing Professor Harris’s model, I coupled Seuss stories with each of the boxes. I teach upper elementary students, but believe that great children’s literature contains the same room for re-discovery as any adult “classic.”  What follows is a summary of some Seuss, supplemented with a flurry of outside resources which might add greatly to the discourse, no matter what age your group. [Note: I…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 3 of 3)

My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 3 of 3)

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In the previous installment, I overcame my apprehension at introducing the politicolors, and began to share student responses to political theory.  At one time, I had been worried about the abstract nature of such an approach, yet here they were truly excited to use colored pencils in their notes and making connections of which I couldn’t have dreamed. I usually turn up the heat on critical thinking skills once students hit sixth grade, but here the fourth and fifth were sweeping off my socks.  I also found that they were a bit more realist than I had been at that…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 2 of 3)

My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 2 of 3)

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When last we met, I was explaining my dread, as I contemplated using Will’s boxes with my 4th-6th classroom.  Here was this rich, layered theory, which I still hadn’t mastered; yet, the politicolors had given dimension to the founding, I’d never before imagined.  Could I bring them to life? It was understood that I had a looooong way to even near Will’s grasp.  After all, I’d still look back at photos of the concept maps and ponder the meanings of words written in the corners of the boxes or lines that could sometimes be dotted, and I’d wish for a…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 1 of 3)

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After a year to digest Will’s colors and boxes, I felt ready to use them with my class. It wasn’t without apprehension.  Although I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and re-envisioning the National Academy (primarily through writing and this site), I want to approach mastery before revealing ideas.  I think that’s only natural with one’s classroom.  All good teachers admit their limitations, yet we don’t like to be wrong a whole lot, and that’s when working with facts.  Here I was, deciding to dive into theory.  And it looked like a glass of water down on the sidewalk from…

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Constitutional Thinking Requires Constitutional Teaching

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At the National Academy today, Kevin Fox presented his thoughts on his own constitutional thinking and teaching. In the Academy tradition, his inquiry started with, “What is it?”. His answers included… Reasoned Reflective Creative constructive imaginative Present on-going Whole ordered (not orderly) Scientific systematic experimental Balanced (between extremes) Inclusive (of the parts and the whole) Serious (treat ideas seriously) Complex (surplus of mind) Teaching beyond the test Purpose driven Problem generating & solving With a quick wit, he concluded this line of thought with a simple paraphrase of James Bradley Thayer’s doctrine of constitutional interpretation, “Let them hurt. Make them…

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