Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exam Day is Fast Approaching

The Last Minute Scramble...What Did I Forget???

Reference Lessons 7, 16, 23,28, 32, 35

Saturday morning I went for a long bike ride with an AP English teacher who teaches in another building in my district. He was relating to me that he had woke that morning and the first thing on his mind was what had he failed to stress enough during the year that he could scramble this week and review just before the AP test.

I had to laugh for I am in the same boat paddling (or in my case peddling) madly upstream. With only one week left before the test there is so much I would like to review with the kids, but so little time to do it. Where did this year go?

I did have a good review plan this year. We have been in a review mode for the last week or so and I feel like we have covered some solid ground. Since I teach the year long course I have to contend with the kids forgetting the stuff I taught last August! Those of you with semester courses don't have that problem, but of course you are still struggling to get the entire syllabus finished and Government and Politics being the first AP test in the queue isn't helping much.

This last week we will be doing three things in class. First class this week we will finish the scheduled review. In my case we will review about 40 important Supreme Court cases. It is an arduous task, but should be done.

Second class the kids will take the 2002 Released AP Government multiple choice test. They haven't seen it before now, so I will let them get in groups of two or three and work through the test. I like doing this as a mini-group project for a couple of reasons. First, it doesn't intimidate them as much when they see the test with a partner. No sense creating jitters the week before the test! Second, reading the questions together and debating the answers is a great review in itself. Finally, doing this with a partner can be a confidence builder and relieve any pre-test anxiety. Some of my AP kids really put the pressure on themselves, and I find that this is a means of releasing some of that pressure prior to THE Exam.

The last day I will give the kids five or six topics that I feel they need to review for the Free Response section of the test. No, I don't have any inside information....I am as totally clueless as the next fellow on what the questions will be. However, I have had a pretty good track record of guessing some topic areas for the kids to look at and then having those areas having a Free Response questions. Just for fun (again...I absolutely don't have any idea, just uneducated guesses) here are the areas I am suggesting this year:

1. Supreme Court nomination process including vetting by the White House and the confirmation process. Timely and we haven't had one for a couple of years on this topic. (See Lesson 28)
2. Federalism...we seem to have one every other year. In the last decade we have had five or six Free Response questions on some aspect of Federalism, so why not one more. Now Federalism is a big topic, so I am advising the kids to look at mandates and federal laws that are forcing neo-nullification issues. Things like No Child Left Behind, ADA, and drunk driving laws. HMMMM!? (See Lesson 7)
3. Apportionment...hey it is the Census time and this will be a huge topic in another year. How about a little Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v Sims. One man-one vote anyone??? (See Lesson 16)
4. Free might be a bit too soon for Bong Hits for Jesus (Morse v. Fredrick), but maybe not. We haven't seen a student's rights question in forever. (See Lesson 35)
5. Incorporation...does anyone still teach Barron v. Baltimore, the Slaughterhouse Case, and Gitlow v. New York? If not they maybe sorry! I have been waiting for a good incorporation (14th Amendment) question for a couple of years. This might be the year AP makes me look like I have some idea what I am talking about. (See Lesson 32)
6. The Budget. With the huge deficits and the astronomical national debt, maybe it is time for a good ole budget chart question. We had one of these almost a decade ago, but it is such a hot button question now that I can't help but think we might see it again. This could be a Policy type questions concerning Congress and the budget or a question about the creation of the budget (OMB and CBO type stuff). (See Lesson 23)

I will give my kids this list and challenge them to study these topics for a couple of extra minutes Sunday evening. If I am wrong, they will have looked at some pretty important national issues one more time. If I am right, well....Katy bar the door!

Have a great week finishing your curriculum and getting the kids ready for May 3rd. And of course as always, the best of luck to your students.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ripped From the Headlines: Party Dealignment in the Making

Dealignment Revisited: A Ross Perot Type Movement on Steriods???

Reference: CNN Editorial

Reference: Hippocampus Lesson 11

My last post featured the Tea Parties and Mid-term elections (Sunday March 10, 2010) and once again I want to focus on the Tea Party Movement as seen in the headlines. This time, however, I would like to take a different approach to the topic and view it from Hippocampus Lesson 11 which looks at the topics of "Realignment and Dealignment" of political parties (covered specifically in Topic Two). The editorial referenced above by Ed Rollins is an example of many that I have view recently on this topic. I liked Rollin's comments particular because he has made a comparison between the 1992 Perot "grassroots movement" and the Tea Party movement of 2009-2010. His inside information on the Perot movement gives Mr. Rollins particular credibility and his editorial a unique slant.

Here is a simple class activity that I will be using with this article. This is a short activity and would be appropriate at this time of year for a review of the basic concepts of party purity, alignment, dealignment and even critical elections and realignment. I will first make a paper copy of this CNN piece and have the students do a quick 5 minute read highlighting key points of the editorial.

Next, I will ask students to create a t-chart of similarities/differences between the Perot 1992 movement and the 2010 Tea Party movement. Similarities should include distrust of government, dislike of budget deficits, desire to see lower taxes, and discontent with political parties. Differences could include that the 1992 movement was personality based whereas the 2010 movement is issue based, the Tea Parties are more "spontaneous" and less created by a 3rd party, no true leadership is found in the 2010 movement, and any other difference the students can pull out.

Once the t-charts are done we will move to a class discussion. I will put the terms (party purity, realignment, dealignment, critical election) on the board and we will define these as a class, insuring we are all speaking the same language. I will then as several questions such as: How are the two movements alike? How are the two movements different? Did the 1992 movement cause permanent realignment or dealignment? Will the current movement cause permanent party alignment changes? How would these movements compare to major movements that resulted in critical elections and permanent party membership changes? Hopefully, we can have a fruitful discussion on these topics and we will initiate some higher level thinking by the students including synthesis, analysis, and comparing and contrasting.

Once the class discussion reaches a conclusion, I will ask the students to look at a past AP Government and Politics Free Response Questions (if you don't know where to find these click on this AP Central link) . In particular, we we look at 2003 Question 2 on Citizen Participation, 2004 Question 3 on 3rd parties and 2004 Question 4 on Trust in Government, and 2006 Question 1 on Interest Groups and Political Parties. Time permitting, I will put the students in groups and have them OUTLINE answers to each of these questions as a group, or we will divide the class into 4 parts and have groups work on one question and then present the question and their answer to the class shotgun style. I will then give the students handouts on the AP scoring guides (see link above) and allow them to self grade their efforts.

The Tea Party movement offers us a unique look at American democracy in action. If you agree with the politics of the Tea Parties or not, we should all agree that the brilliance of our form of government is that it allows free speech, free assembly, and the right to petition the government with our grievances. A closer examination of the Tea Parties can help our students perform better on the AP Exam, but more important, it can encourage them to become an active participant in our political system as they mature and discover their own place in our republic.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ripped From the Headlines--Mid-term Elections

Mid-term Elections...Changing the Face of Congress?
Reference CNN sites:

Reference Hippocampus: Lesson 14

The picture of Tea Party rallies around the nation has become all too common in our daily news. These Americans, tired of paying high taxes and feeling neglected by those inside the Washington beltway, have taken their protests to the streets, parks, and meeting halls calling for lower taxes, an end to health care bills, and for the major parties to listen to them. Sarah Palin has address them, Republicans have applauded their efforts, and Congress has listened. The question now is, will these dissatisfied citizens speak where it counts the the polls next November.

Right now is a great time to have a class discussion on the midterm elections. I have offered you two articles from CNN to help you with this. The first article is a good ice breaker for your class. Even though it came out before the passage of the health care bill, it brings out many of the points you will want to discuss with your class.

For example, the article points out that many American express concern about single party control of Congress. It also points out that Democrats feel that the health care bill will solidify its voters while the Republican feel like it will drive Independents to the GOP candidates.

What do we know about midterm elections? First, the party in power in the White House almost always loses some seats at the midterm. Wikipedia (Midterm elections) has a nice chart on this you might want to share with the students. Mr. Obama can almost count on losing some seats. The question will be if the health care bill and the Tea Party movement will compound this enough to change the balance of power in Congress.

This is where the second CNN site can be good. This site isn't an article, rather it is an interactive graphic showing how many Republicans and Democrats are leaving Congress thus creating open seats. Since we know that incumbents win in the House at almost a 90% clip and in the Senate at just slightly less of a rate, the open seats might be the deciding factors in the election.

As the time of the year approaches when many of us will begin reviewing students for the Exam, a lively discussion on midterm elections could be very beneficial. First, you can use it as an opportunity to check your student's understanding of Congressional elections and incumbency. Second, you can review elections and campaigning using current issues for examples. Third, you can encourage your students to get out and vote their convictions next year. While many of our students (if they are seniors) have turned eighteen by now, most will not have a real voting opportunity until the November midterm election. While achieving your teaching goals, you might just make this election a salient one for them and promote their responsibility as citizens by getting them out to vote next fall.

November is eight months away...will people still be discussing health reform? Will the Tea Parties die out or will they find new issues to rally around? Will Mr. Obama maintain his majorities in Congress? Will Americans get tired of Washington politics? Wow...a plethora of topics and all timely for AP review. Enjoy!!!! RV.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ripped from the Headlines--The Court and the Freedom of Speech

The Court and the Freedom of Speech
Reference Hippocampus: Lesson 35 and Lesson 34

Here is a case that is actually near and dear to my heart. In the 1970s I lived in Topeka, Kansas about two blocks from the home/compound of the Fred Phelps family. I had several neighborhood encounters with this now infamous family that were less than pleasant. I never dreamed back then that the Phelps family of lawyers/ministers would be the center of attention in a Free Speech case that gained national notoriety. So now, 35 years later, I am watching with interest while Topeka enters center stage in a national controversy.

The case of Snyder v. Phelps won't be heard until this fall by the Supreme Court, however, it can offer you an interesting teaching opportunity this spring. Here is what I am planning on doing with this case:

1st...I am having the students read several article on the case including the one from the NY Time noted above and also one from the Topeka Capital Journal in addition to any other articles they can find.

2nd...I am placing the students in small groups of two or three. Each group will be assigned as lawyers for the Snyder family or for the Phelps family or as an interested "outside" group that would present friend of the court briefs. The task is to create a legal argument (brief) supporting their family or interest group using past Court cases. Interest groups could include conservative church groups, gay rights coalitions, veteran groups, and city/state governments. In addition, one group (of three) will be Justices. The Justices will each be asked to research the case and write their opinions.

To help with this I am referring the students to a site that actually gives information on hate crimes and fighting language that will give the students case histories and access to Court opinions. In addition to the concept of Free Speech, I will encourage the kids to consider the Free Exercise Clause and subsequent cases given in Hippocampus.

3rd...The task for the students will be to write a brief arguing their point of view. We have discussed briefs in class and will look at templates for briefs that are on-line. I am asking the students to keep their brief simple and succinct. Once these are done, we will present the briefs orally to the Justices and the Justices will render a Court opinion on the case.

While the class won't know until next November or December the decision of the real Supreme Court, this exercise will allow them to review important cases from the 1st Amendment while gaining further understanding of how the Court arrives at decisions.

Depending on your time, you can make this as complicated or simple as needed. I am getting pretty stretched for time in my classes, so I will make this a simple and quick project. You can tailor it to fit your needs. Prepare yourself, however, for some pretty brisk class discussions. This case seems to bring out knee jerk reactions in all who discuss it. RV

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ripped From the Headlines--Guns and Incorporation

Guns and Incorporation....Continued

Dear Readers....

This is just a postscript to Sunday's blog (see below) on the McDonald v. City of Chicago hand gun case now before the Supreme Court. One of my favorite news broadcasters did this nice piece on the case after the Tuesday oral arguments were heard.

This is a nice 5 minute story including quotes from the Justices and lead attorneys during the Tuesday session of Court. If you are following this case with your class, this might be a nice addition to material you are presenting....RV

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ripped From the Headlines--Incorporation and the 2nd Amendment

The Court, Incorporation, and the 2nd Amendment

Reference CNN Page:

Reference Chicago Tribune:,0,3152673.story

Hippocampus: Lesson 6, Lesson 28, Lesson 30, Lesson 32

Sometimes news stories can really pull together many of the concepts we try to teach. This Tuesday the Supreme Court will be hearing the case of McDonald v. the City of Chicago, a 2nd Amendment issue. McDonald is asking the Court to strike down a city gun ban that would have far reaching effects on municipalities and states. In effect, the Court has been asked to incorporate the 2nd Amendment. No fewer than 49 amicus curiae have been filed in this case. The Supreme Court last year decided on a Washington, D.C. gun ordinance. Now many are wondering if the Court will reverse 140 years of precedent and open the door to new rights in gun ownership.

For teachers of APGOPO, this case offers a unique look at not only the Court, but also the concept of incorporation. There are several things one could do with this case. In my class, I will have the students do a short Internet research on the history of gun cases in the Supreme Court starting with the Presser case and ending with the Heller case. I will then have them present the findings of the Court in class in each of the cases that they find. We will then follow this case's oral arguments and see what basis the Court will use to determine if the 2nd Amendment is to be incorporated.

Historically, the 14th Amendment has been the justification for incorporation. Will that hold true in this case? When the Court releases its findings and the opinions are brought down, we will ultimately read the opinions and glean the Constitutional issues the Court used in its decisions. This is case will most likely produce not only a majority opinion, but also concurring and minority opinions. It should be a textbook in Constitutional reasoning and justification.

We seldom have an opportunity to watch the incorporation of a right. Since the Warren Court in the 1950s and 1960s, those few provisions of the original Bill of Rights not incorporated have been off limits to the Court. McDonald v. City of Chicago offers us a rare glimpse of incorporation of a right in the making. Some have even suggested that the Court could overturn the Slaughterhouse Case (Hippocampus Lesson 32), rendering the concept of selective incorporation obsolete and radically changing American jurisprudence.

This case can be used in several places within the Hippocampus curriculum. Early on in the year it can be used with Underpinnings Unit in Lesson 6. In Lesson 28 on the Court you could use this case to demonstrate how the Court finds and accepts cases as well as looking at the process of making decisions and rendering the opinions. Lesson 30 concerning judicial review could also benefit from using this case. In addition (and possibly most importantly), it can be used along with Lesson 32 on the concept of selective incorporation.

Depending on how the Court finds following the March 2nd oral arguments, McDonald v City of Chicago might become as important of a case as Mapp v. Ohio, Gideon v. Wainwright, or Miranda v. Arizona to those of us teaching APGOPO. Its probably a good time now to add it to your curriculum.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ripped from the Headlines--Justice Stevens

Justice Stevens and the selection of a New Justice

Reference: CNN page:

Hippocampus Connection: Lesson 31

I want to take just a bit of your time this week and call your attention to this article that appeared on CNN on February 12th. I believe this to be a very solid article to use with classes for several reasons. First, it is extremely timely. The article which is speculating on who President Obama might favor the next Supreme Court seat, falls at a time when many of you who are teaching year long classes will be addressing the Judiciary unit. For those of you with 2nd semester classes, this unit should be right around the corner. So when I saw this article the other day I jumped on the chance of sharing it with you.

Second, when you do begin the Judiciary Unit, this article will really reinforce many of the terms and concepts found in Hippocampus. For example, the article discussing the vetting process that Mr. Obama's staff is already engaged in. This reinforces much of what your students will be viewing in Lesson 31. Again, it talks about the concept of "seats" ("One source said if Stevens were to retire, there would be less political pressure on Obama to name another woman to the court. Souter's exit led to universal agreement inside the White House that a woman should join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then the lone female on the court, the sources said.") While the term "seat" is not directly used, the idea that the nation has expectations for a certain demographic make-up on the Court is clearly indicated.

The article also discusses what exactly the President is looking for as far a judicial experience and qualities (leadership, court experience, and political ideology). For example, "Judge Diane Wood, 59, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Many administration insiders believe she would be a strong intellectual force on the high court, where the newly emboldened conservative justices have achieved recent victories on campaign finance and gun rights, the sources said." The article discusses several of the key persons of interest to the White House and why they are a possible appointee.

Third, this article touches on the idea of activism and activist judges as seen in the following clip, "Liberal activists have generally applauded Sotomayor's history-making elevation to the high court, her inspiring story and reliable progressive votes so far on the bench." This would fit into the ideas presented in Lesson 30 in Hippocampus.

Here is how I will use this article in my class. I will print this article off (or have the students view it directly on line) and then give them a list of vocabulary terms used in Judiciary Unit making sure that these terms are found (in some way) in the article. I will then ask the students to match the quote from the article that alludes or refers to the term. My examples above for activism and "seats" would be examples of what the students should produce. This would be a way for the students to check themselves on the vocabulary and be sure they understand what is meant by a term or phrase.

I would make some of the terms difficult to locate. For example, if the term I gave the students was Confirmation Process I would expect them to use the following quote from the article, "And allies on the right seem confident that in an election year filled with legislative challenges, Obama could have a much harder time choosing a high court nominee with a clear liberal portfolio." This would clearly demonstrate to me that the student would understand the process and it's potential pitfalls for the executive branch.

A second way this article could be used is to ask students to imagine that they were President Obama and then decide which of the people in the article they would decide to nominate and explain why. This could be a short essay, a free response type answer, or even a short power point presentation.

I was reminded of the Harry Truman quote, "once you put a man on the Supreme Court he ceases to be your friend" upon seeing that Cass Sunstein, and old friend of Mr. Obama, is being considered. I wonder if Mr. Obama has ever seen that quote?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ripped from the Headlines--The State of the Union Address 2010

The State of the Union Address 2010

Hippocampus connections: Lesson 5, Lesson 20

This year's State of the Union address brought several raised eyebrows and a good deal of morning quarterbacks with varying opinions of the president's speech before Congress. Mr. Obama concentrated on the topics of the budget, the economy, education, energy, health care, "don't ask, don't tell", and national security.

There are many ways you could use the State of the Union Address in class. I would avoid showing the students the entire speech. Class time is far to precious for this, especially when the speech runs over an hour as it did this year. I do believe you can encourage students to watch it or listen to it (as extra credit or a class assignment is great), but I find using selected clips from YouTube a much better use of the class time.

I also love what CNN did the next day with a nice combination of summary, key themes, reactions, and poll results. I really think that a solid lesson plan could be devised using the CNN site (hyperlinked above). In addition, CNN added Highlights of past SOTU Addresses and a fun interactive on-line quiz on what we know about the history or SOTU Addresses.

I would break my class into small groups and assign each group to read one of the themes (the budget, education, energy and so on) and then come back to the class and not only report on what the speech said, but also have the group give their opinion on this topic and how it would effect the state in which they live and their lives. They could spend 20-30 minutes doing a quick Internet search on the topic and make 5-10 minute presentations/discussions. This would be a great higher level thinking activity (on Bloom's taxonomy it would rate as evaluation and/or synthesis) and very appropriate for AP level students.

For example, if President Obama said he would like to give families tax credits for college expenses as well as increasing Pell Grant funds how would this effect your students? If the students come from wealthy families, this may not be as salient of an issue as it would be for students coming from lower income areas. And how would this education money be financed? Increased taxes? More national debt? Would Republicans and Democrats support such measures? If not, why?

The State of Union Address can fit into the Hippocampus curriculum in several places. The two most natural would be at the beginning of the year during Lesson 5 on the Constitution if you wanted to discuss enumerated duties of the president at this time. Better yet, during Lesson 20 this would fit nicely in the discussion of the president as Chief Legislator (page 10 of the text section on Expressed Roles). CNN keeps these pages up for a long time, so you don't have to use the State of the Union Address the week it actually takes place. This page should be available to you next year if you teach a year long class or later this semester if you teach a semester class and are now just coming to the executive branch unit.

As always, we must balance the time we spend on any one individual topic. With the institutions of government being up to 60 percent of the AP Exam, time spent on the State of the Union Address is probably justifiable. In the process of creating good citizens, it is very important. I would recommend squeezing this into your curriculum and considering it time well spent.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Some Help Teaching the "Underpinnings"

We the People Competitions...Another Weapon in Our Arsenals

I find AP teachers to be an interesting group of people. I doubt there exists another set of educators who are so dedicated to finding new ways of presenting material, new ways of exciting students to their topics, and new ways of insuring that come May, their students will be totally prepared for the summative exams that face them. I think that most of use who teach AP classes take the whole thing very personally. When our students succeed, we feel we succeed. When the students fail...well...we tend to blame ourselves. Is this striking a cord with you?

In the quest to be a better APGOPO teacher, I always keep the radar working for new and interesting ways to get students involved. I have shared several of these with you and today I want to focus on another: The Center for Civic Education's We the People Competitions. For us "old timers" this is not a new resource. However, if you are new to teaching APGOPO, this can be a great find in your search for ways of involving students in the learning process.

The Center for Civic Educations stated goal is "... to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary and secondary students...". This is accomplished by providing an educational program with very good publications available and a culminating activity in which students participate in simulated Congressional hearings.

If you are not familiar with the We the People book for high schools you should be. This book is very helpful in teaching the concepts that APGOPO expects the students to understand as far as the Underpinnings of the United States Government are concerned. In my social studies department, we have used this text in our sophomore honors US History, our AP US History, and in our regular and AP Government classes. Classroom sets are available for affordable prices for most public and private schools. Since I have encouraged most of my teachers to attend trainings put on by the Center for Civic Education we have even received classroom sets at no cost!

This week (February 1st as a matter of fact) is the Kansas State Competition in Topeka. Our school will field a team this year under the leadership of my AP History teacher and myself. Winning your state level competition allows your team to advance to nationals in Washington, D.C. Several years ago our school won this honor and the students were of course elated.

Now, having said all of this, there are a couple of caveats that must be looked at. First, the curriculum of We the People: The Citizens and the Constitution covers primarily the Underpinnings of the United States and the Civil Liberties portions of the AP Curriculum (see the table of contents for this publication). These two sections of the AP curriculum make up at the most 30% of the APGOPO exam and at the least 10% (see the Curriculum Outline in the Acorn Book page 10-12).

If you are going to attempt to incorporate the We the People publication and curriculum in your syllabus, you are going to have to carefully watch your time. I have always been a strong advocate of spending the bulk of my teaching time on the Institutions of National Government and Public Policy which can make up as much as 60% of the exam! The We the People curriculum can be a real time consumer if you don't watch out. I would never advocate sacrificing any of our precious time needed for the most significant parts of the AP curriculum for "outside" activities.

If you are like me and have the luxury of a year long class, then We the People can be inserted into your syllabus comfortably. If you teach online or for a semester only, you really need to weight the cost of time versus percentage of curriculum being covered.

A second concern with We the People is cost....especially in these hard times for public education. Beyond the cost of the materials if you must purchase them, transportation and other travel concerns might be problematic for you. Our team (totaling 15 students and sponsors) will need to travel 160 miles for the state competition. If you win state, fund raising will be necessary for the national competition. Be sure if you start on this venture you have the support of your administration, parents, and students.

An alternative to competing in the state competition is that several states have district level competitions that your team could probably compete in with little or no cost other than time. At our school we have even done a school only competition which was unofficial, but cost nothing while allowing the students to present their papers and demonstrate their understanding of the Constitution to local judges. (see the rules of competition)

If you have questions contact your local state representative. It is probably too late this year to get on board with a team, but planning for next year should start soon!

Wish my team good luck. The kids have worked very hard and are very enthusiastic. I can only see this as a great help in the final goal...understanding our government and doing well on the AP Exam!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A New Year and a Look at the Budget

Ripped from the Headlines

Last year I wrote you a blog on teaching the federal budget and budgetary process (see Dec. 14, 2008), and gave you a short class project that you could use with the students to promote the idea of cutting budgets and balancing budgets. It was a nice little project and I still like to use it with my students.

I need to be totally honest with you and say that this year I really don't have anything new to share with you on this topic, however, I do feel a sense of urgency in having you make sure that your students are really aware of these topics and issues.

It has been several years since we have had a pure budget question appear on the AP Exam. A budget question of sorts appeared in 2002 concerning distribution of federal funds. That question demanded that students have knowledge of the important issues of entitlement payments.

The last real pure budget question dates back to 1999 in which pie charts similar to the one above were used demanding interpretation for students to answer the questions. The question tested to see if the students understood the "barriers" to new policy initiatives. Frankly, it was a tough question. Students had to not only understand the categories of spending but also "walls" in congress that kept spending concerns from manifesting into actual policy decisions. Have you taught that yet this year???

Now, I sure don't have an "in" with College Board or the test writing committees, but any AP teacher who has been in the business for a number of years knows to start anticipating questions from certain topics. Especially when we haven't seen a question from that topic in a number of years we should get a bit nervous about an upcoming appearance. When that topic is front page and "above the fold" on a daily basis in papers all across the nation we better be on the ball and reviewing possible questions with our students. I am not one who likes to play the "guess the question" game, but this year I just have that feeling!

The budget problems we are seeing now in the country are not just federal. States have entered into a serious and contentious set of budget problems. With a recession still affecting many parts of the nation, states as well as the federal government are contending with taxpayer cries of "no new taxes" while the government bodies are experiencing dwindling revenues and increased expenditures. Most states have balanced budgets provisions in their constitutions, leaving a dilemma of daunting proportion.

The AP exams seem to love to hit on timely current event questions that are ripped from the headlines of the daily news. This year, I am spending a couple of extra days on the budget and will surely give it more time in my pre-test review sessions. I just have that feeling!!!

I still like to share the National Debt Clock with the students and we took a look at the Cost of War site. My students this year, like all years, were dumbfounded with the gargantuan numbers and the rapidly ticking off of dollars. One student this asked, "can we even print the money that fast?" Good question...I had never thought of it that way.

The President's budget will be coming out in the next couple of for the headlines and analysis and spend some extra time with the topic...I don't think you will be sorry.