Sunday, January 11, 2009

More on the Bureaucracy

The Regulatory Agencies...the Heart of Your AP Government Unit

Last week I discussed the need for teaching the Federal Bureaucracy as an AP teacher. I fear that this unit is often overlooked or skipped entirely. In 2006, the responses to the Free Response Question on the bureaucracy demonstrated a need for more thorough coverage of the topic of bureaucracy nationwide. The problem with the bureaucracy is that it just isn't very glamorous. In fact, it can be a bit boring (understatement) for the students unless we help put a little life in it.

Last week, I focused mostly on the Cabinet; and indeed, the newspapers this week were full of articles about Mr. Obama's selections for Secretaries and the Attorney General post. By all means, we must put a very high focus on these top governmental positions and how they relate to Congress and to the public.

This can also be a great time to introduce the "iron triangle" (remember that famous Free Response Question from the mid-1990s on the iron triangle) and take a look at sub-governments and the relationship that exists between the bureaucracy and Congressional standing committees and clients. I like to read some excerpts to the students from Dan Briody's 2003 book to get them the message on this topic.

This week, however, I want to call your attention to the aspect of the bureaucracy that has most recently caught the attention of the College Board test committees: the regulatory agencies. (Lesson 26 in US Government and Politics at Most of the top textbooks do a pretty good job of handling this topic including a short history of the beginning of the regulatory agencies in the Progressive Era and the proliferation of these agencies in the New Deal and post War years. The books also get into the topic of deregulation during the Reagan years and that continuing trend which persists today.

I like to try to focus the students on a few of the major regulatory agencies. Again, as I do with the Cabinet positions, I use a shotgun method breaking students into groups to study the agencies and then reporting out to the class their findings. The agencies I focus on are: SEC, NLRB, EPA, FTC, FCC, and FDA. (I have linked the home page for each of these for the Cabinet Departments, the Federal Agencies have a great deal of transparency and students can look to these sites for most information they will want or need.) The 2006 question included two of these, and my students were very comfortable answering the question. The Federal Reserve was the other agency from that year, but I cover that under public policy and economic and don't include it with the pure regulatory agencies.

It really isn't hard to hook the students on the regulatory agencies. The FDA is familiar to most students from their US History, but a short reading from The Jungle will help them understand the need for this agency. The FCC was involved in the famous "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl XXXVIII issuing a huge fine and being caught in an interesting Court battle (US Court of Appeals, Third Circuit CBS v. FCC 06-3575 [2008]). The NLRB has been active in union negotiations in our city and news clippings are not hard to find on the EPA. A little creativity and student interest really gets peaked. I also do a current events element in my class (students must find and review two articles for group sharing weekly) and during the unit I challenge them to find articles on these agencies...they always can.

On another note, the inauguration is just around the week I will put some ideas out for looking at the historic day, THE SPEECH, and how to incorporate it into your curriculum. Until then...

No comments: