Monday, May 18, 2009

Two Cents More...

The United States Postal Service is clearly in trouble. Every year for the past four years, the USPS has increased their postage rate to try to compensate for the loss in revenue. This is no surprise for any of us who opt to use the internet, cell phones, and other shipping methods before taking a trip to the Post Office to pay the increase postage rates. What is a surprise is the neat interdisciplinary lesson that the United States Postal Service provides for our students!

The Constitution
The USPS is a wonderful example of the fluidity of the Constitution. Obviously, the founding fathers never dreamed of communicating through cyberspace or Blackberries, but they were wise enough to create a document that can be adjusted in many ways.
Activity suggestions:
  • Have your students locate where in the Constitution it calls for the creation of Post Offices and Post Roads using our interactive Constitution.
  • Discuss with your students how the internet has impacted our Constitution as well as the Post Office. Great jumping points for discussion would be its impact on interstate trade, freedom of speech and press, and search and seizure.

A History Lesson
The United States Postal Services was created under Benjamin Franklin in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress. Ask your students why they think it was so important to create a Postal Service at that time in our history. The history of the USPS is fascinating because it incorporates so much of what we teach in our curriculum already. Its latest difficulties in keeping up with the decreased demands may force a complete change (or perhaps a government bailout)!
Activity suggestions:
  • Create a brief time line of the history of the USPS.
  • Investigate with your students when the Post Office became a private enterprise, not an agency of the government.
  • Ask your students to brainstorm what they see in the future for the Post Office.

An Economic Lesson
What a great opportunity to incorporate an economic standard in your social studies class!
Activity suggestions:
  • Ask your students if our government protects or breaks up monopolies. Discuss why the government would protect some monopolies (such as the First Class postage which is still protected by the government).
  • Ask your students how competition affects businesses in a market economy by using the USPS as an example.
  • Discuss with your students how the postage increase will affect the use of the Postal Service.
  • Ask your students to propose a solution to the business troubles facing the Post Office.

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