Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Congressional Bibliography

Some Sources for the New (and Old) Teacher

From time to time younger teachers in my district and region have asked me for help with Advanced Placement Government and Politics. I have always been very happy to help with suggestions and resources. Teaching should be a collaborative effort. I was taught this by Dr. Will McLauchlan from the Purdue University. A number of years ago at a one day seminar, Dr. McLauchlan gave each participant a CD containing his entire lecture series for a 101 Poly Sci class. His generosity blew me away. For years I have based my entire AP Course on his gift.

This blog is an outgrowth of this willingness to cooperate and share lessons, thoughts, ideas, and curriculum. I know that for readers who are experienced AP instructors, some weeks my blog offers nothing new. But for a new teacher in this field and this curriculum area, I hope that each week I can give some insight into some aspect of teaching AP Government that will assist you in developing your lessons and your teaching philosophy.

This being said, this week I want to share a short "annotated" bibliography on books on Congress that every AP teacher should keep in his/her library. I have found these books excellent references and resources over the years. Many of these are time tested being in the double digit editions. If you have a limited library on the subject of Congress, these might be good suggestions for the Santa Claus in your life.

Congress and Its Members by Davidson and Oleszek: often used as a college text, this book is a wonderful source for detailed informations on how Congress really works. The chapters run 30 pages or so, and are a bit long for students to do as an assigned supplimental reading in high school, but I do use exerpts to help clarify concepts.

The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track by Mann and Ornstein: These two are leading authorities on Congress and this book has given me great ammunition to discuss Congress with classes. The material is pretty heavy reading for high school students, but it is indispensable for teachers. I highly recommend it as thought provoking reading.

Congress Reconsidered by Dodd and Oppenheimer: I'm not sure what addition this is now in, but you need to own one of these. The collection of essays will benefit you especially when students ask the hard questions. I have used excerpt of these readings with my students. They find the level of reading challenging but understandable.

Constitutional Conflicts Between Congress and the President by Louis Fisher: I use this in the early part of the semester in discussions on Constitutionalism and separation of powers. I have pulled excerpts for students to read and consider. It is another book that brings up issue for all of us to think about.

Unorthodox Law Making by Barbara Sinclair: I have a rather long lecture I call "Hi, my name is Bill" (yes, we watch the School House Rock version) that I could not give without this book. Sinclair really gives good insight into the process of legislating bills through the House and Senate.

I swear I am not on anyones payroll and no commissions will be forthcoming by these promotions. In a world of millions of books available on Congress, these stick out as some of the best. I would put them on an AP Government teachers book shelf. If you have other suggestions please comment back and let me know...I will post those comments. Until then...

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