Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Our new blog is under construction, and we really appreciate your feedback. Look for the full launch of the site later this fall. For now, check out blog.constitutioncenter.org for our alpha version!
The Education Team wishes you all the best for an engaging, stimulating, and very successful school year!
Friday, May 21, 2010
Kathryn is thrilled to be the Education Manager of the NCC, and she looks forward to working with the NCC's 15,000 teachers!
Friday, April 23, 2010
The district was termed the "Territory of Columbia," and the city that comprised the capital itself was named "Washington" after the president. The city was built on the Maryland side of the Potomac River (the French architect Charles L'Enfant's 1792 design is pictured above). Eventually, Congress would return the land south of the Potomac to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Have your students research why George Washington chose the site on the Potomac River as the location of the nation's capital. Why did the Framers of the Constitution consider it important to designate federal land as the nation's capital instead of simply housing the capital in an existing city, like New York or Philadelphia?
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The Framers of the Constitution called for the election of senators by state legislatures not only to maintain a balance between federal and state power but also to provide a filter for popular opinion. The Founders had apprehensions about making government too democratic, as they believed that the common man might succumb to "passion" (emotion) instead of reason and elect unqualified representatives. Over time, as the right to vote broaded to include more of the American populace, people began to call for the direct election of senators.
Voting rights have expanded throughout our country’s history. Have your students play the National Constitution Center’s Seize the Vote game and learn more about voting history as they attempt to win their character’s right to vote.
Monday, March 29, 2010
- U.S. Constitution: Article II, Section 2, Clause 3
“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.”
- President Barack Obama
“Circumventing constitutional Senate vetting is dangerous because President Obama’s track record in vetting nominees and other high-level appointees has been very poor. . . . Many of the people President Obama is granting recess appointments will hold high level positions that will greatly influence job creation in this country.”
- Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina
Though there is little evidence as to the intentions of the Constitution's Framers in creating the recess appointment clause, it seems that it was meant to allow the President to maintain the continuity of administrative government through the temporary filling of offices during periods when the Senate was not in session and thus could not consider nominees. This interpretation was bolstered by the fact that Congress had both relatively short sessions and long recesses between sessions until the beginning of the 20th century.
Presidents, however, have sometimes used recess appointments for political purposes--as opportunities to side-step a Congress controlled by the opposition party. Attorneys General and the courts have added to the president's recess appointment power by interpreting broadly the phrase “vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate." The recess appointment power is now generally accepted to include the right to make recess appointments to any position that became vacant prior to the recess and to positions that became vacant during the recess.
President Clinton made 139 recess appointments, and President George W. Bush made 171 in their two terms in the White House. President Obama has made 15 recess appointments in his year-and-a-half in office.
Current Events & the Constitution
Ask your students to deliberate the positives and negatives of recess appointments after first reading Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution. Then ask them to look at the history of recess appointments at the Senate's web site and what each political party has to say about President Obama's recess appointments.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
"Network neutrality" is the principle that data on the internet should be moved impartially, without regard to content, destination, or source. Those who favor network neutrality believe that it protects the free market by ensuring that all small and independent sites, such as blogs, are on an even playing field with large, corporate-owned sites. Critics of network neutrality want a two-tiered model, where ISPs would be able to charge owners of Web sites a premium fee for priority placement and faster speed across their networks.
Both of these internet controversies are about the concept of freedom of speech: that of the Chinese people and that of small independent web sites. In the United States, freedom of speech is a fundamental right, but in some countries, like China, such a right does not exist in law.
Ask your students these questions:
Is “freedom of speech” an inalienable universal human right? Why, or why not?
If ISPs (Internet Service Providers) can decide what kind of content moves at what speed on the internet, do they then have the ability to determine what types of content internet users have access to? Explain your answer.
Does the concept of freedom of speech translate to the internet? Why, or why not?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Have your students discuss which theory of representation is better for democracy.