This unit is designed for a three week application in an eighth-grade American history course at Irving Robbins Junior High, Farmington, Connecticut. Although it is created for American history, I see and encourage its application in other courses from grade six through twelve. It would fit nicely into such courses as Civics, American Political Behavior, Family Life, and Language Arts. Its main purpose is three fold: 1) to help students understand the complexities of early political party formation at a local as well as a national level, 2) to show students that an understanding of early political party formation is a useful tool in comprehending our present national political system, and 3) to increase student political awareness and interest in the political system.
My teaching experience at both the junior high and high school levels indicates that students are “turned off” by politics. This student disaffection runs concurrently with growing adult alienation from our political system. This malaise is reflected by reduced voter turnout at both the nation and local level. I believe this disaffection stems from: 1) ignorance of the functions of the political system; 2) a lack of understanding that citizens have political responsibilities and “can make a difference” in shaping society; and 3) a failure to see how the system affects everyman’s daily life. I hope to dissipate some of this disaffection by helping students to become aware of their political heritage, to see historical analogies to the present, and to experience politics at a school and local level.
The unit is designed to challenge the student’s mind through emphasis on the foliowing skills: 1) critical thinking skills of classification, seeing analogies, structure analysis, and operation analysis; and 2) analytical writing skills.
I believe that students will benefit most from this unit when it is taught at a time when national and/or local politics are in the public eye. For that reason I designed activities which will incorporate a study of school and state, as well as national politics.
In the following pages, I have organized my material into the following sections to facilitate teaching of this unit.
1) Content objectives
2) Historical Narrative on the Evolution of Political Parties in Connecticut
3) Teaching Strategies and Three Examples of Classroom Activities
4) A Selective Teacher/Student Bibliography (Annotated)
5) An Appendix of Teacher Aids