Friday, December 22, 2006

Teaching about the U.S. Congress

The article Teaching about the U.S. Congress is another excellent ERIC Digest which gives ideas for teaching about American Congressional history and assorted helpful resources in teaching about it. It is from 2001. The authors are Thomas S. Vontz and Sarah E. Drake.

From past experience, teaching students about Congress is difficult. The students are either partisan (I am a Republican or I am a Democrat), cynical (all Congressmen are corrupt), or just plain ignorant with no desire to learn. They see all lessons I teach through one of these three lenses. Of course, there are always a few students who do keep an open mind. I guess my lesson plans should focus on moving past current events and focus on what Congress has done right in the past.

From the site:

Disagreements about the structure, functions, and powers of Congress were prominent at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Two proposals, the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan, framed debates about Congress. In response to the impotence of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, both plans were designed to increase the power of the national government, including Congress.

The Virginia Plan called for a two-house legislature: one to be elected by the people and the other to be chosen by the first house. The plan also called for proportional representation based on the population of each state.

Delegates from states with small populations vehemently opposed the Virginia Plan because it diminished their power in Congress relative to the states with large populations. According to the New Jersey Plan, each state would continue to have equal representation in the unicameral Congress of the United States.

Settling the disagreement over representation in Congress was crucial to the success of the Convention. The Convention eventually made the "Great Compromise." It provided for a two-house legislature in which states were represented on the basis of population in the House of Representatives and represented equally in the Senate.

1 comment:

bscarbrough said...

Thanks Miland for the reminder on our country's congressional history.

I think that many of the same disagreements congress have today and basically the same type of disaggreements they had back then. Today there are just more people involved and more issues.