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.