The students will have multiple opportunities to look at fiction, nonfiction, and internet resources in order to conduct their research surrounding the major topics addressed in the unit. The majority of the books will focus on the right to vote. Some will focus on women’s right to vote, while others will address topics in the presidential campaign like political parties. In addition to book resources, the students will also view specialized articles from the
Time for Kids
magazines, websites focused for children on the election, and photographs that will provide a pictorial representation of the elections. Some of the books that I chose to highlight are:
The Day the Women Got to Vote, a Photo History of the Women’s Rights Movements, Women’s Right to Vote, and Created Equal: Women’s Campaign for the Right to Vote.
I chose these books because there are excellent examples of photographs, historical facts, and scenarios of events that took place during the time period. Other books include
How Do We Elect Our Leaders, The Nineteenth Amendment,
The Politician. The Politician
highlights character traits that define an ideal leader. The students can reference this book when they begin the culminating project and have to choose human characteristics for their avatar character. In the book titled
How Do We Elect Our Leaders,
the students can use this book to get an inside look at political parties, the election process, and the Electoral College. I will use excerpts from these books to pinpoint, or highlight the daily lives of people. These books also contain thought-provoking statistics that would be useful to prompt questions.
The last two books that I should mention are
The Congress of the United States
A True Book: The Bill of Rights
. These two books lay the foundation or the framework of the government. Students will learn about the first ten amendments and can understand who the original Framers were. The book should help students understand the perspective of those who originally created our constitutional democracy and understand how it evolved into our current government system. I have named these books as a beginning to the unit, but as the unit moves and progresses, more resources will be used.
Videos are helpful learning prompts, and
has a variety of good videos to explain the presidential election like
Jimmy Kimmel talks to kids about politics with Hillary Clinton
Jimmy and Kids rate the Presidential candidates.
Both these videos are about ten minutes, but they showcase young children’s opinions about leaders and government.
In addition to videos and books, there are internet resources like
Time for Kids.com, PBS.org,
and others where students can find interactive games, trivia games, and webquests to enhance their learning. The website
is excellent because it is an interactive website that is fun-filled, appealing, and engaging for middle school children. Needless to say, videos should be deployed with appropriate note-taking and organizing strategies.
Topics of Coverage
The Presidential election provides a great pathway for discussing the right to vote. Needless to say, there are always controversies over who can vote and whether or not politicians are making it harder for people to vote in order to increase their chances of winning the election. These controversies provide a good way to introduce the fact that voting is a basic civic right that belongs to everyone regardless of race, color, or gender. Not everyone is granted this right in other countries. Even in our own country, some groups (felons, non-citizens) can’t cast a ballot.
Given that our country just elected its first black president and may be in the process of electing its first female president, the election is a great vehicle for talking about the limits once placed on voting and the path toward a more inclusive democracy. Voting, during the early days, was limited to white men who owned property. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that the Fifteenth Amendment gave the right to vote to all men.Even then, it wasn’t until after the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s that African Americans in the South were able to exercise their franchise. Women also did not get the right to vote until the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920. The right to vote was expanded with the 26th Amendment, which allowed, eighteen year olds to vote. In addition, those who have disabilities were granted the right to vote under the federal law, as well as those whose first language is not English. Today, more people vote in the presidential elections than in any other kinds of election.
Women: From Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Geraldine Ferraro to Hillary Clinton
A woman’s sphere is her home, right? Well, this was the case for women in the 1840’s. Her job was to stay at home and tend to her family and husband, and almost all of her legal rights were limited. Women were not allowed to vote, let alone hold public office. Women were believed to be too weak and emotional to be a part of the governmental process. Even in the domestic sphere, she was believed to have belonged to her husband, as were her children, and her property.
As this election makes clear, it wasn’t just having the right to vote that led Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. There also had to be a change in social norms. Women fought for change, and worked hard to be the leaders of true reform. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, along with other brave women, decided to take a stand. She, along with Lucretia Mott believed that it was unfair to exclude women from voting and politics. They held a women’s rights convention to try to change the way women were treated. They wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, and included a revolutionary piece about voting. Both women and men signed the petition, with the women’s right to vote the main issue at hand. Later, Susan B. Anthony joined the movement and formed a partnership that lasted fifty years. It was because of these women and other women’s tireless efforts that the independent woman awakened, and a political movement began to take shape. Women fought long to gain their rights, from 1848 to 1920. We can see the fruits of their victory. Women enjoy rights that would have been thought implausible a century ago. More recently, Geraldine Ferraro, was one of the first woman to earn a Vice Presidential nomination in 1984, paving the way for Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential bid. Clinton first sought the nomination in 2008. She is now the frontrunner for the Democratic Party.
The 2016 presidential election showcases and connects the themes of this unit beautifully. They all weave together so well that it makes sense for the teacher to teach the importance of voting in conjunction with the progression of women’s rights. The students will see through this unit that Clinton’s historic candidacy raises many questions about citizenship and democracy.
The 2016 election also provides substantial opportunities to discuss the crucial role that political parties play in our democracy. This section will be a pivot point for student discourse because there are so many ways students can think about political parties and their impact on democracy. All students need is a brief background on what parties are and why they matter. Students should learn that political parties elect officials to represent their parties political views. Political parties provide a way for voters to easily identify representatives who share their views. The impact of political parties on our democracy is evident. It is also important for students to note that the one of the jobs of a political party and its platform is to persuade others to vote for their candidates. It would be interesting to discuss with students whether a group or party platform could sway their vote. I would challenge the students to think about how the slogans of the political parties influence the way people vote. Do people vote based on the catchy slogans, the colors of the advertisement, or the power of the candidate’s rhetoric? How much do political parties really help their candidates?
Why do women tend not to run for government?
The fact that there have been so few women who have run for President raises another important topic that will be covered briefly in this unit, Women are underrepresented in the world of politics, and students should understand why. Students will discuss the stereotypes associated with women and the relationship of those stereotypes to views on leadership. We will then connect those stereotypes to obstacles Hillary Clinton has faced in running for president. This will open up the conversation for students to pose their opinions about why they think women have a difficult time winning office. I will also introduce statistics on women holding office in Connecticut and see if this changes their perspectives. Several articles will be offered for evidence, and students will be challenged to think in a different way about women in general. This lesson will discuss evolving gender roles, and will contrast the viewpoints of the 1800s to today’s views of women. Students can compare and contrast the roles women played and dive into the reasons why women do not run for office in much greater detail. There will be a lot of overlap with the prior two topics as well as many opportunities to show students real world connections.