If you’re helping pupils navigate the confusing realm of politics, civics, law, and other issues related to government, consider asking your learners the following question: Is there a connection between campaign donations and legislative votes? Although the answer may seem laughably obvious, the implications of the response are anything but amusing. What might inform a neutral observer’s answer to the question? What evidence could a citizen use to seek clarification? Is there a beacon to guide a truly curious individual on such a quest?
MAPLight, uses a public database to shine a light on the links that exist between campaign donations made to political figures and legislative voting records. Not surprisingly, there are more than a few politicians who do not appreciate the glare of such attention on their behavior and decisions.
UPDATE: After writing this post, I came across a news item that seemed particularly relevant to the point I was trying to make. Robert Pear of the New York Times reports,
“In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident. Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.”
I’ve included a citation for any teacheror student who may be wish to refer to the article.
If you’re teaching students how to gain a better understanding of the government of the United States, you’ll want to get acquainted with the Sunlight Foundation because it also provides a great deal of clarity.
Visitors who accessCapitol Words are able to track and visualize the most used words in the Congressional Record. The words being tracked and visualized are displayed in more than one manner. They appear in a word cloud as well as in list view.
Kim Rees of Periscopic (an impressive interactive design firm specializing in information visualization), points out that curious educators, pupils, and citizens should also explore Congress Speaks as it’s a great way to review the words spoken by the 110th Congress.
Well, I’m back in Georgia now. I’m glad to be home as life here in the South (or, at least, the portion of it where I reside) is a little more relaxed, a little more peaceful than the hustle and bustle that suffuses our nation’s capitol. That said, I can’t help wondering what it’s like in Washington, DC today. I imagine it’s hot and crowded with lots of traffic. People are probably poring over all those wonderful monuments to liberty. After all, today is an important day there and everywhere else in this great land of ours.
Informed citizens are the best citizens. Be the best citizen you can be. Get a refresher as to why the concept of checks and balances is still an important foundation upon which our liberty rests. A careful review of the importance of the separation of powers is a prudent means of correcting dangerous aspirations that ambitious office-holders may be contemplating. We place trust in those we vote into political office. We have the power–more importantly, the responsibility–to insure that our elected officials safeguard our liberties. Celebrate independence and freedom but, more importantly, preserve and practice these ideals.
Why not explore vital events and themes in our nation’s history with We the People?
If you’re teaching students how to gain a better understanding of the government of the United States, you’ll want to get acquainted with the Sunlight Foundation and its powerful project, Capitol Words. Visitors who accessCapitol Words are able to track and visualize the most used words in the Congressional Record. The words being tracked and visualized are displayed in more than one manner. They appear in a word cloud as well as in list view.
Word cloud of most used terms in the Congressional Record
If, however, your pupils are curious about the most loquacious lawmakers, they can take a look at the site’s Heat Map of Vocal States.
Related links: While you and your learners are exploring these government-related resources, why not take a gander at Subsidyscope? It’s a site that was launched by the Pew Charitable Trusts that’s attempting to increase public awareness about the role of federal subsidies in the economy. Want to follow that money? You can.
If you’re really curious, the Miller Center of Public Affairs sponsors a treasure-trove of Executive Branch information called AmericanPresident.org. This extremely informative explores all manner of presidential data from Washington to our newest Commander-in-Chief. The site covers everything from each First Lady, every president’s nickname, to who served in a each cabinet. This rich resource provides excellent historical accounts of past Presidents, including images, quotes, and biographical information.
What a moment to watch history, hope, and healing unfold! I’m sitting here in a Crowne Plaza hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia. My friend and co-worker, Mike and I have been following a number of media sources (both web-based and television) throughout the evening. Regardless of who won the election we both agreed that we and all of our fellow citizens need to put politics aside and get to work making our country the kind of nation where ALL children can grow up safe, smart, strong, and sure of hope and liberty. We need to be more than Democrats and Republicans. First and foremost, we need to be Americans.
Americans–real Americans–can and do rise above their differences to unite. Those who love this country may disagree. However, they are steadfast in their unwaivering dedication to the belief that everyone…everyone…has the opportunity to pursue a a better life. Americans, real, true patriotic Americans work together to build, maintain, and sustain a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Obama’s victory speech:
McCain’s gracious concession speech: “Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans,”–John McCain
I went to sleep with the hope that made America famous. I had the kind of a dream that maybe they’re still trying to teach in school. Of the America that made America famous…and Of the people who just might understand That how together yes we can Create a country better than The one we have made of this land… What Made America Famous by Harry Chapin
For starters, I’m attending and presenting at GAETC 2008. When I’m not visiting with old friends and doing a little networking today, I’ll be earnestly conducting a session where the participants explore tech resources designed to help students visualize instructional concepts. Preparing for the session (and another centered on digital video-editing) has consumed most of time during the last few weeks. I want the attendees to leave with new and useful ideas about how they can make learning more engaging, efficient, and effective.
In the midst of all this conference excitement there’s a presidential election in progress. I’m so glad I voted early. That said, I’ll probably be visiting Election 2008 powered by Twitter as well as the following sites:
The internet offers politically-minded individuals many opportunities to critically examine the demographic forces in play that may be influencing decision-making. Dropping by a site such as Census.gov allows informed and novice voters to explore population statistics that bring context to political debates