Current Events


With just two weeks left to Election Day, Illinois' gubernatorial candidates (and many other candidate pairs across the country) are locked in a tight race that anyone could win. Teachers interested in having students watch any of these candidates' three debates can find links to all three below, as well as a 'candidate scorecard' that students can use while watching to keep track of what they like and don't like about what the candidates have to say. Illinois students who watch any of the gubernatorial debates are encouraged to tweet/Facebook/instagram their thoughts about each candidate's debate performances using the hashtag #BeMyGov.  icon four_candidate_scorecard.docx (20 KB)

Political Dark Arts 101

Last week WBEZ aired a series of short pieces each of which introduces/explains one 'dark art' of campaigning: opposition research, the voices behind political ads, and polling. Each one is about 3-5 minutes long and ready made for sharing with students; click here to find them all. 

Early and Often in Your Inbox

Earlier this spring, the Chicago Sun Times launched 'Early and Often,' a new page of their website designed as a clearinghouse for political news. Teachers interested in subscribing can sign up to receive a summative email each morning full of local, state and federal political news items from a variety of well-known news sites. Click here to learn more.  

The Debates Begin

Last Friday, Illinois gubernatorial candidates Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner had their first face-to-face meeting at an event that was part of a conference held and moderated by the Illinois Education Association. Click here and scroll down to find video of the entire conversation. 

Bringing Youth Voice to Sex Ed

Students at Foreman High School are collaborating with CPS and the Chicago Department of Public Health to improve sexual health education and condom availability at their school. Click here to learn more by listening to a story WBEZ aired this week about their work. 

To Opt Out, or Not to Opt Out

Chicago teachers and families made headlines last month when they opted out of ISATs; New York families face similar boycotting decisions now. Teachers interested in having students debate the merits of opting out of testing can click here for a variety of short opinion pieces arguing for different positions on this issue. 

Young Voters Speak about Election Day

Why is voting important? What issues matter to young people? What do 17 year olds want from their elected officials? In honor of today's Illinois primary election, click here to hear some excerpts from the election-related audio diaries that WBEZ reporters collected from Chicago area youth over the last several weeks. 

Who Represents Me?

Wondering who represents your school and/or students at the county, state and federal levels? Click here to find a map on which Illinois residents can enter an address and find names and contact information for county commissioner, state representatives, state senators, congressmen and senators. 

This Week in the Student Movement

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts ten first-person updates on youth organizing in the United States-from established student unions, to emerging national networks, to ad hoc campaigns that don't yet have a name. Click here to read the most recent dispatch, including an item about work by the UCCP in Philadelphia, a fellow member of NACC. 

Hey (Future) Governor!

WBEZ's Curious City is looking for the questions students feel are important but the candidates for governor may not be talking about. They suspect some issues will get a lot of coverage: tax policy, pensions, guns and same-sex marriage. But what more do you want to know? Click here to learn more about how Illinois residents of all ages can submit their questions. 

Remembering Mandela

Teachers seeking an interesting tool to engage students in rich conversation about the life and contributions of Nelson Mandela can click here for a collection of resources (including a short video, obituary and question set) found in last Friday's NYTimes.  

Seeking the 21st Century's Moon Mission

To commemorate last month's 50th anniversary of the Kennedy's assassination, the PBS NewsHour Extra is asking students and teachers to answer the question 'Do you think there is a cause or mission today like the Moon mission in the 1960s, that inspires young people to take on new challenges and learn new skills and technology to better the country and the world? If so, what does it look like?' Click here to learn more about how students can contribute to the conversation. 

Look Out for the Youth Vote

Think youth won't show up to vote in off year elections? Virginia says otherwise. Click here for an editorial from last week's HuffPost in which Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote, argues that Virginia's recent election results prove millennial voters will turn out for candidates who court their votes - and warns 2016 presidential hopefuls to ignore youth issues at their own peril. 

Factions in the House

The federal government is open once more, but disagreement in Washington persists; click here to see the NYTimes' latest infographic that shows which representatives (from which districts and which caucuses) voted for and against ending the latest shutdown.  

The Shutdown in Cartoons

Teachers looking to have their students analyze the messages found in political cartoons can click here to access a host of examples about the recent federal government shutdown (with different slants) that the Chicago Tribune has collected from newspapers around the country.

Malala Yousafzai, Champion for Youth Voice

Last October, Malala Yousafzai, a sixteen year old Pakistani girl, was shot by the Taliban for her advocacy work on behalf of education for girls. This October, she remains undaunted in her commitment to make her voice heard. Click here to see an extended version of Malala's interview about her work, life and new book on last week's Daily Show. 

Teachers interested in sharing this video with their students may also consider the following activity: Begin by asking students to brainstorm a list of adjectives that adults would use to describe 'youth'. (Many of these words are likely to be negative.) Then have students watch Malala's interview and keep a running list of adjectives that they would use to describe her. How do these lists compare? Why is it important for youth to make their voices heard? How might listening to Malala, or other youth like her, change how adults see youth?

Students Speak Out on Education

In honor of American Graduate Day in September, the PBS News Hour's Student Reporting Labs decided to ask students around the country what they believe the most pressing issues in education are. Click here to see what they had to say. 

Government Shutdown Q & A

Looking for a quick summary of the issues at hand in the impending government shut down? Click here for a relatively student-friendly article from Sunday's NYTimes that takes the issue apart using a question/answer format (and includes links to more details for readers who are interested).  

Happy Constitution Day!

Celebrate the 226th anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution by checking out the free lessons on constitutional rights and concepts (for elementary, middle and high school students) offered by the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago. Click here to explore the lessons. 

Election 2014

Teachers planning to have students follow the Illinois gubernatorial race can click here to visit Chicago Tonight's site-in-progress on which they have gathered information about the growing Republican and Democratic fields (including candidate profiles and resumes), as well as some key issues in the race. 

Debating Voter ID in NC

Teachers interested in having their students debate the purpose and effects of new voter ID laws springing up in many states can click here for a PBS News Hour video segment that offers an overview of recent legislation in North Carolina and a short debate between a supporter and opponent of that state's new law. 

The Summer of 1963

In order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of such a pivotal summer in US history, NPR has spent this summer sharing Civil Rights Movement stories from players big and small alike. Click here to explore and listen to their growing bank of stories and here to learn more about the project's companion Twitter account, @TodayIn1963.  

Mapping Crime in Chicago

As concealed carry goes into effect in Illinois and Chicago's City Council acted to toughen gun legislation within the city, WBEZ shared on their webpage an interactive map of Chicago's gun crimes in 2012 (broken down by type). This map is also accompanied by a timelapse map that shows how the frequency of gun crimes has changed in different neighborhoos across the last ten years. Click here to access the story and maps. 

Collecting Community Voices 

As the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, high school students from McComb, Mississippi premiered a 10 minute documentary they made about their hometown's role in the creation of the act in 1965. In order to make said film, students sat down with locals who had been involved with the fight and interviewed them about their experiences leading up to the Act's passage. Click here to watch the documentary and an interview from the PBS NewsHour with the students who created it. 

Respond to the Justices

Respond to the Justices In the wake of the Supreme Court's recent decision on DOMA, the NYTimes has created a digital gallery walk in which they took quotes from the prevailing and dissenting opinions and invited readers to respond to said quotes with their own thoughts. Click here to access the site and/or use the idea to create your own with excerpts from other/future Supreme Court decisions. 

Keeping up with the Supremes

Given the number of significantly consequential rulings expected (and delivered already in some cases) from the Supreme Court this month, the NYTimes has created a page dedicated to compiling different interpretations and analyses of the various rulings as they are made public. Click here to read interpretations of yesterday's affirmative action decision or here to read about today's Voting Rights Act decision. 

Whistleblower or Leaker?

Looking for a quick way to kickstart classroom debate as to whether Edward Snowden was right to release the government secrets he did AND whether this revealed NSA surveillance crosses a line between providing security and invading privacy? Click here for a PBS NewsHour clip (and transcript) in which both questions are debated by guests with opposing viewpoints.

Summer Bucket List

What Kids Can Do comes through again with a list of ideas for summer activities - created by teens, for teens. Click here for their list to share with your students OR use the idea as a jumping off point to have students create their own list (individually or as a class) of fun and/or civic engagement goals for the summer.  

Hackathon, Tumblr and Data, Oh My

In collaboration with the Smart Chicago Collaborative, WBEZ has a new Tumblr blog dedicated to examining and promoting public data sets that the City of Chicago has made available. First up: a post explaining a Civic Hackathon scheduled for next weekend at various sites in Chicago. Click here to read the blog post and here to learn how Chicago youth ages 13 and up can participate in the Hackathon.

College, but Where?

As students graduate and many head for college, the NYTimes has published an infographic that illustrates the extent to which students of color are still much more likely to attend colleges with lower graduation rates. Click here to access the graphic rife with possibilities for classroom discussion about the root causes of this issue. 

Yes We Can?

A recent poll from Harvard's Institute of Politics indicates that young voters have become less idealistic and more partisan since 2010. Click here for a NYTimes article about the poll or here for a summary of the poll results; both provide excellent starting points for classroom debate and discussion about the implications of these results for voters and candidates in future elections.  

Louder Than a Bomb in Juvenile Detention

On May 1st, youth residents of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center shared hopes and fears in Chicago's annual Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam festival and WBEZ was there to record them. Click here to listen to their voices.  

Think You Can Fix Illinois' Budget?

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and others have collaborated to develop an interactive online Illinois Budget Calculator that puts the entire Illinois General Fund in the "virtual" hands of the public. Teachers interested in addressing Illinois' budget crisis in class can click here to find the calculator that "provides everybody with the opportunity to weigh priorities while serving as a virtual Illinois policymaker."

Youth Unemployment Persists

A recent study from the Center for American Progress reports that while nearly everyone has struggled in the wake of the Great Recession, young Americans have suffered the most; the unemployment rate for Americans ages 16-24 stands at 16.2 percent, more than double the national rate of unemployment. Teachers with students interested in this issue can click here to access the full report (and/or find and excerpt charts and portions to use in class discussions).  

Tale of Two Police Forces

On Friday, April 12th, public radio stations in Chicago and New York City teamed up to host an hour long two-city call in show (with city residents, reporters and experts) to discuss how each city approaches the issue of gun violence. Click here for a link to the broadcast and several other related stories about both cities' policies. 

Grades from the NRA

As Congress moves forward with potential gun legislation, the NYTimes has re-published a map first released last December that shows grades the NRA has given Congressmen and Senators in all fifty states (based on their voting record when it comes to gun owner rights). Teachers following this issue with their students can click here to see the map. 

Progress towards Suffrage @ 17

The campaign to let Illinois seventeen year olds vote in the primary if they will be eighteen by the time of the general election is excited to announce that Rep. Carol Sente has amended HB226 in Springfield with this language. Click here to read the bill itself and read below to find out what you and your students can do to help:

  • Help find co-sponsors for the bill! Students can share the fact sheet below with their own state legislators to encourage them to co-sponsor the bill. icon Suffrage17facts.doc (31 KB) 
  • Help spread the word: Follow @suffrage_at_17 on Twitter and/or click here to join the Suffrage @ 17 Facebook group.

500 Campaign

After the murder totals in Chicago started to rise this January, 28 year old South Side native Bryant Cross started thinking of effective ways to spread an anti-violence message and came up with the 500campaign, head shots of Chicagoans with the slogan "Angry Because Over 500 Youth Were Murdered in Chicago." Click here for an article about his efforts or here to visit the project's Instagram page. 

Using Social Media to Measure Social Attitudes

As the Supreme Court spent last week hearing arguments about same sex marriage, nearly four million Facebook users switched their profile pictures to various red equals signs. This week, Facebook released data and infographics that make for interesting discussion about how, where, why and to whom ideas spread online. Click here to see the map and article. 

Suffrage at 17

This spring, the IL legislature will consider passing legislation to lower the voting age in Illinois primary elections so that anyone who will be 18 and eligible to vote by November 4, 2014 can vote in the state's primary the previous spring. (Nearly half the states have a similar policy.) Teachers with students interested in supporting this legislation can click here for an online petition or contact Andrew Conneen ( more information.

One Person, One Vote?

Should voting districts in the U.S. be drawn to contain the same number of people or the same number of eligible voters? Should all states have to agree on the same answer? Next week the Supreme Court will take up a case dealing with these very questions; click here for a NYTimes article that previews the arguments that each side will make.  

Rules to Live By

NPR's This American Life recently aired two episodes made up of powerful stories gathered by three reporters who spent the past five months at Harper High School in Chicago, where last year alone 29 current and recent students were shot. In Act One of the first episode, WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton explains seven 'rules' by which students live in Englewood, and that got us thinking: Do these rules apply elsewhere in Chicago? In other cities in America? How do they change from place to place? Teachers interested in learning their own students' answers to these questions can click here to access our worksheet and links to the podcasts of the both This American Life episodes.  

Concealed Carry, But Where?

Last week, the Illinois House spent nine hours debating various amendments specifying where the state's residents should and should not be allowed to carry guns once the new law allowing concealed carry goes into effect. Click here for a WBEZ article about the debate AND a complete list of proposed amendments (and the votes by which they passed or failed). Students interested in this issue may compare these amendments to the restrictions placed by other states and/or debate and vote on the merits of each amendment within their own class.

Q & A on the Voting Rights Act

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Shelby County v Holder, a case that could result in a landmark ruling on the constitutionality of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Teachers seeking material to introduce the basics of this case can click here for the NYTimes' brief question/answer formatted synopsis of what is at stake.

Inside Harper High School with This American Life

This fall, three reporters from NPR's This American Life spent five months at Harper High School in Chicago, where last year alone 29 current and recent students were shot. Their goal? "To get a sense of what it means to live in the midst of all this gun violence, how teens and adults navigate a world of funerals and Homecoming dances." The result? Two in-depth episodes that "paint a remarkable portrait of school administrators who know their students well, and take energetic measures to keep these teenagers alive." Click here to read more and to download the podcast of the first episode that aired last Friday. (Part Two airs later this week.)  

2013 Youth Inaugural Address and the Children's Leadership Council are asking students of all ages to record and submit short videos that share their ideas for "what the nation needs to get back on track and ensure every kid in the U.S. grows up healthy, safe and productive." Click here to watch videos and to learn how to submit your own!  

Spotlight on Immigration

Last week, President Obama and a bipartisan group of Senators both offered frameworks for the kind of immigration legislation they hope to pass in the coming months. Teachers interested in having their students compare and contrast the two can click here for a copy of the Senators' framework and here for the text of the President's speech on the same issue.  

NPR's Digital Dear Mr. President

In honor of yesterday's inauguration, NPR has started their own Dear Mr. President project and is asking Americans of all ages to submit photos and captions that express something they hope President Obama remembers in his second term (whether they voted for him or not). Click here for more information and to read entries submitted so far. 

Executive Action on Guns

Last week, President Obama signed a series of 23 executive actions aimed at stopping what he called, "the epidemic of gun violence in this country." Teachers interested in having their students debate, discuss and/or evaluate each can click here for a list of all 23.

Data Dive into Chicago's Violence, a neighborhood news website in Chicago, has taken the data on the city's 2012 murders and broken it down by sort, neighborhood, date, time of day, distance from home, and other metrics. Click here to explore the site.

Chicago Divided

In early January, the NYTimes shared an infographic map of Chicago that illustrates where homicides have been concentrated over the last decade - as well as the racial, education and income make-up of each area. Click here to access the map that offers a wealth of possibilities for classroom discussion.

News Literacy Project in Chicago

During the week of December 3rd, the News Literacy Project will offer its digital unit that aims to help students become critical consumers of media to Social Studies, Humanities, Journalism and English teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. Click here for a short video that provides more information about the project and how to get your students involved.

Electoral Dysfunction

Tonight (10/30) at 9:30pm CDT, PBS (in Chicago) will air Mo Rocca's new documentary that explores "how voting works - and doesn't work - in America". Click here for more information about the film (screened at both conventions this summer!).  

Tweet the Debates: #Mikva 

Are your students watching tonight's (or next week's) presidential debate? We want to hear what they think - and to give them a chance to hear each other as well. As students watch, have them tweet their thoughts using the following hashtags: #mikva and #yourschoolname. You can also click below to download a lesson idea/worksheet that asks them to analyze other tweets they see. Big thanks to suburban Mikva teachers Andy Conneen and Hayley Lotspeich for sharing this idea! icon ENGAGING_IN_THE_PRESIDENTIAL_DEBATES_VIA_TWITTER.d (39 KB)

Community Budget Hearings in Chicago

On Oct. 24th (at Wells High School) and 30th (at South Shore International High School), members of the City Council's Progressive Caucus will community hearings about Mayor Emanuel's recently proposed budget. These aldermen include: Ald. Bob Fioretti (2), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), Ald. Toni Foulkes (15), Ald. Rick Munoz (22), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36), Ald. John Arena (45). Click here for more information about how you and/or your students can attend.    

Let the Debates Begin!

Let the Debates Begin! The first presidential debate is scheduled for this Wednesday evening at 8pm CDT, with two others to follow on the 16th and 22nd. Teachers interested in having their students watch at home (or in class after the fact) can click below to download a debate viewing guide and reflection sheet to help structure the experience. icon Political_Debate_Viewing_Guide.pdf (140 KB)

Teaching Campaign Finance

UW-Madison has collected a variety of videos, articles, and discussion strategies that teachers can use to help students explore existing and proposed campaign finance laws (as well as their impact on elections). Click here to access the in-progress site.   

Addressing the CTU Strike

Interested in helping students explore some of the multiple dimensions of the recent CTU strike? Click below for a variety of ideas/resources for how to address the issue with young people. icon ctu_strike_lesson.docx (1065 KB)

Listen to Me

As part of their series of lessons around the 2012 election, the PBS NewsHour is asking people of all ages to submit short videos answering the question 'What is the most important issue to you during this election?' Click here to find the lesson plan and here to see videos that viewers have submitted thus far.

Candidates on the Issues

Teachers looking for an additional source that compares where Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stand on various issues can click here to access the Council on Foreign Relations' collection of the candidates' positions on multiple foreign policy issues.  

Making Voters Out of Volunteers

Why are young people enthusiastic volunteers and organizers but tepid voters? In this NY Times piece, Ann Beeson of the Annette Strauss Institute argues that the key to reaching young voters is to tie voting directly to issues that young people care about. Teachers looking to organize voter registration drives and/or draw out their own students' voices and expertise on this matter this fall may find Beeson's piece a useful way to kick start conversation on the topic in class.  

Youth Vote 2012?

How many young voters will turn out this November? Who will they vote for? And why are so many likely to stay home? Teachers interested in engaging their students in discussion around these questions can click here to find a recent story about these questions from NPR that is sure to inspire debate in the classroom.

Youth on the Trail 2012

What does the political landscape look like to America's youngest voters in 2012? Which issues grab them most? What shapes their thinking? What are politically active youth saying and doing? Are politicians paying attention? As a headline in the National Journal recently asked: "Can Obama recapture the youth vote?" From now through the November 2012 election, WKCD will provide answers to these questions and more. Click here to access the site.

Segregation on the Red Line 

Last month, as part of the series Race Out Loud, WBEZ reporter Dan Weissmann rode the CTA's Red Line from end to end, talking with commuters at different stops about their ride, and creating a time-lapse video to show how the train's ridership changes as it moves from North to South. Both the video and accompanying article provide great discussion material for teachers interested in addressing segregation and/or community mapping in class. Click here to access the site.  

Kaiser Quiz on Health Care

Many Americans have strong feelings about the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, but how much do they know about what the law will and will not do? Click here to check out a quiz about the law, recently published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Students can see how well they score and discuss what percentage of Americans answered each question correctly - and what those numbers mean for how we as a nation evaluate legislation.

No More Plastic Bags

On 7/2/12, the Chicago Tribune published a story about a seventh grader in Grayslake, IL and her quest to convince Illinois Governor Pat Quinn not to sign a recently passed law that prohibits municipalities from passing laws that ban plastic single-use bags. Using, she has created a petition that has gathered over 150,000 signature! Click here to read the story.

Fact Checking the Candidates

Looking to engage students in a deconstructing campaign messaging? This article in June 19th's New York Times provides a good examination (and includes several examples) of how rival campaigns use different bits of information to create and support competing claims and sound bites. Click here to read the article.

When Do Kids Become Adults?

This week the NYTimes' 'Room for Debate' feature tackled the following issue: "Many high school students have been driving since they were 16, and those who have turned 18 are no longer minors: they can vote, join the military and marry their sweethearts. But they can't buy a beer. Is it time to rethink the age of adulthood? Do the age requirements for certain rights need to be lowered or raised? Shouldn't they at least be consistent?" Click here to find arguments from a variety of perspectives and professionals - any one of which is sure to inspire a great classroom debate.

Race Out Loud

Twenty years after the publication of Studs Terkel's book Race, WBEZ and Vocalo are hoping to spend the summer engaging Chicago residents in public discussions about how race, racism and segregation continue to affect the city today. Click here for the project's main page that includes maps, interviews, articles, and information about upcoming public events.  

Speaking Out about Bullying

Earlier this spring, TeenInk and NYTimes columnist Nicholas Kristof asked American teenagers to share their expertise by submitting 500-word essays about bullying, being bullied, witnessing bullying or ideas about how to address this issue. Click here to read excerpts of some of the 1200+ letters submitted - and to find a link to the full-text of the winning entries.   

Electoral Map Fun

Looking for an awesome interactive infographic that lets students and teachers alike visually explore the different ways that the 2012 electoral math could shake out this November? Click here to find just that from the New York Times and use it to design your own paths to victory for Obama or Romney. Be sure to scroll through all the pages!


Starting today, Chicago area civics teachers Andrew Conneen and Dan Larsen have teamed up with POLITICO to teach the fundamentals of U.S. Government and Politics. In preparation for the AP U.S Government test on May 15th, they will post one lesson a day here to cover the 10 themes of American civics: federalism, public opinion, political parties, interest groups, campaigns and elections, Congress, the presidency, the courts and policymaking. Every lesson will tie one POLITICO article to one of the 10 themes above, demonstrating real-life examples for students.  

Why Tuesday?

Why Tuesday is a non-partisan organization founded in 2005 to find solutions to increase voter turnout and participation in elections in honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Using social media, Why Tuesday? aims to provide a platform for national dialogue about the current voting system, its problems, and solutions that can directly improve the voting process, increase registration and drive turnout. Click here to access their videos, infographics, and blog posts to inspire classroom discussion about various ideas to increase voter turnout in the United States.  

Hunger as a Root Cause of Disciplinary Problems?

A recent study by the research nonprofit ideas42 examines why students (especially those whose families receive food stamps) get in more trouble at the end of the month than at the beginning and suggests policy changes to address the problem. Click here to have students read Peter Orzag's explanation of the study from Bloomberg, discuss whether they think his policy suggestions would work, and brainstorm others of their own.  

Americans Elect?

While the primary season marches on, a new nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is stirring controversy by working to fundamentally change the way we elect our presidents. Teachers interested in helping students debate the merits and drawbacks of this effort can click the links below to find editorials for and against their work as well as one to the organization's website:

  • Click here for Americans Elect's official website  
  • Click here for Gail Collins' NYTimes editorial criticizing the organization's goals/efforts 
  • Click here Michael Eisner's LATimes editorial praising the organization's goals/efforts

Security through Trust

CPS Security Chief Jadine Chou, hired last November, is working to put relationships and input from the community at the heart of her strategy to keep schools safe. Teachers interested in inspiring a class discussion about what makes students feel safe at school and what security changes they may have recently seen or would like to see at their own school can click here to read more about Chou's efforts.

Post-Game Analysis

In honor of today's Illinois primary, today's FiveThirtyEight post addresses which parts of Illinois are likely to vote how and compares those hypotheses to result maps from the last Republican primary in 2008. Once tonight's actual results come in, consider asking students to compare them to this pre-game analysis and then discuss what the blog got right and where it missed.  

Action Civics and the Lorax  

Looking for an extra bit of fun to mix into your Action Civics classroom? Consider showing the 24 minute 1972 version of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax in class and asking students to evaluate and reflect on how well the Lorax moved through and accomplished each of the six Issues to Actions Steps. How well does the Lorax analyze his community? What (if anything) does he do to analyze power, build alliances or win over his opposition? What is his strategy? Are his strategy and action steps effective at achieving the goal he wants? What could he have done different, in retrospect? (Find the video by clicking here.)

Democracy Class 2012

Rock the Vote's Democracy Class is a free, fun lesson plan that uses music and pop culture to open a discussion with your students about the history of voting rights, the connection between local issues they care about and those they elect and to walk them through the voter registration process and voting. Sign up now and tell RtV when you are teaching the class and they'll randomly choose a few lucky schools to host a ROCK THE VOTE PEP RALLY. Click here to learn more and sign up to participate.  

Action Civics in Brazil

As Rio de Janeiro prepares for the 2016 Olympics, some of the city's residents are organizing in a variety of ways to fight the evictions, low wages, and neighborhood destruction that have been part of said preparations. Teachers whose students are developing strategies to effect change in their own communities may be interested in using this article from the NYTimes as a case study to have students identify, evaluate, and compare the Brazilians' goals and strategies with their own.

Speak Truth to Power Curriculum

Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the RFK Center for Justice, and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have collaborated to launch 32 new lessons as part of the Speak Truth to Power human rights curriculum, based on the lives and work of 14 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Issues range from slavery and environmental activism to religious self-determination and political participation; these lessons aim not only to provide a jumping off point for a larger examination of human rights, but also to give students a way to identify as human rights defenders themselves. Click here for more information and to download the lessons. For more information about the Speak Truth to Power Professional Development Day that Mikva Challenge and their partner organizations are collaborating to present on April 23rd in conjunction with the 2012 Nobel Laureate World Summit taking place in Chicago, click here. 

Budget Bubbles

Last week President Obama released his administration's budget proposal for 2013. Click here to find the NYTimes' interactive tool that lets users explore the types and sizes of changes that have been proposed - and inspires them to think about which they support or oppose.

The Interrupters

For a limited time, this award winning documentary that tells "the moving and surprising story of three 'violence interrupters' in Chicago who with bravado, humility and even humor try to protect their communities from the violence they once employed" is available for viewing on the PBS program Frontline's website. Click here to access both the documentary itself and a series of supplementary related videos.

City of Cultural Hubs

Chicago's City Hall is currently soliciting ideas from the public on ways to enhance Chicago's reputation as a "global destination for the best in arts and culture." Teachers whose students may be interested in making their voices heard in this process can click here for a recent Chicago Sun Times article about the process (including info about scheduled community meetings) or here to access and submit ideas via the city's interactive website.  

Redistricting 201

Teachers looking to go beyond the fundamentals of redistricting covered in our one-period lesson (found here) may also want to check out this neat summary of on-going map fights in Texas and this story about the latest court ruling on the matter as means to inspire further classroom discussion about the importance and controversial nature of the process.  

Chicago's New Ward Map

Last Thursday Chicago's aldermen voted to approve new boundaries for the city's wards (to go into effect in 2015). Click here to view WBEZ's interactive map that illustrates the boundaries and racial demographics of each ward.  

Project Hood

Frustrated by the violence in his South Side community, Pastor Corey Brooks has spent the last month living on the top of a shuttered Super Motel on Chicago's South Side in order to raise money to turn it into a community center. Click here to find a series of local and national articles and interviews about this current and on-going example of Action Civics.  

Let the Voting Begin!

With last week's Iowa caucuses and this week's New Hampshire primary, the 2012 election season has officially begun. Click here for a lesson from the PBS Newshour that introduces students to the nominating system of primaries and caucuses and here for a brief CIRCLE report that examines the impact of youth turnout on last week's Iowa caucus results.  

Occupy Vacant Homes?

In recent weeks, various Occupy groups and other community organizations in Chicago and elsewhere have launched a campaign to move homeless families into vacant homes. Click below to find articles from WBEZ and the Chicago News Cooperative that offer great material for discussion about the pros and cons of this issue.

Redistricting Cities into Pieces

Teachers interested in tackling the issue of redistricting with their classes can check out this article from last week's New York Times that uses on-going map fights in cities like Salt Lake City, Austin and Chicago to explain various arguments for keeping a city in as few or splitting it into as many congressional districts as possible.  

Students as Teacher Evaluators

The Boston Student Advisory Council recently released a short video documenting their three year successful campaign to give all Massachusetts students a voice in the classroom by making constructive feedback from students a mandatory part of the state's educator evaluation policy. Click here to view the video and here to learn more about BSAC.   

Cook County Losing Manufacturing Jobs

Students interested in researching the city's persistent unemployment rate may find helpful a piece in last week's Chicago Sun Times detailing some factors that have contributed to Cook County's manufacturing losses in recent years. Click here to read the article.


For students interested in the city's on-going budget process, this article from the Chicago Sun-Times offers great material for a Stand and Declare activity question: Is more municipal marketing a good idea for Chicago?  

Springfield Primer

Wondering if your students' issue is already on Illinois lawmakers' docket this session? Click here to see the Chicago News Cooperative's informative summary of some key issues likely to come before the IL legislature in the coming weeks.  

Occupy Chicago?

In recent weeks, as the Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to cities around the globe and gained an increasing amount of media attention, teachers and students alike may have found themselves asking - who are these people, and why are they out there? Click below to download our small set of resources and possible discussion questions we have collected to help bring this issue into the classroom.
icon Occupy_Chicago.pdf (180 KB)

Students as Political Reporters

Looking for a way to keep your students in the know about the latest polls, issue positions and scandals of the approaching election season? Pick one day of the week and establish a rotating schedule for 1-2 different students to give a brief 3-5 minute synopsis of that week's political news: Who's up in the polls? What is the scandal of the week? Which candidates are trying to talk about which issues, and what kind of response are they getting? To make this activity more fun, consider recording students' reports newscast-style, complete with introductory music, and compile the reports as the semester goes on. If you have a class website, post them there (or share them with us and we'll post them here!) and track changes in trends, storylines and poll numbers as the electoral season goes on. 

Protests or the Ballot Box?

As young people frustrated with the ballot box as a means of change take to the streets around the world, the recent New York Times article As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around the Globe provides great material for a Socratic seminar on this topic. It makes clear that political engagement is not limited to voting and describes several possibilities and dangers of protests as the principal form of engagement.

Grading the GOP on Education

Are your students interested in the issue of education? Wondering where the current slate of presidential candidates stand on various reforms? Andrew Rotherham of TIME recently graded GOP presidential hopefuls on their education experience. Click here to see his guide to the major candidates' education views and records.

Jobs & Taxes 

In the past few weeks, President Obama has rolled out both a jobs plan and a series of tax reform recommendations. Click the links below to find student-friendly articles and editorials to inform and prompt discussion of either topic in your classroom.

The American Jobs Act

  • Click here for the New York Times' feature story summarizing both key features of the President's speech to Congress and initial reaction from both sides of the aisle.
  • Click here for liberal response the speech and plan by columnist Paul Krugman and here for a more conservative response by columnist David Brooks.

Tax and Budget Proposals

  • Click here to read the Chicago Tribune's 'Factbox' bullet point synopsis of the tax changes the President proposed on Monday. 
  • Click here for a similar summary accompanied by brief analysis by the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institute/Urban Institute.

Changing Voter Registration Laws

In recent months, state legislatures across the nation have moved to tighten voter registration laws in various ways - including requiring voters to produce government-issued photo IDs to register and/or vote. Click below to download a collection of resources and lesson ideas to tackle this subject in the classroom.
icon Changing_Voter_Registration_Laws.pdf (228 KB)

Closing the Budget Gap

This August, the City of Chicago launched a website to give residents a way to share their ideas for how to solve the City's financial woes before the City finalizes its 2012 budget later this fall. Click below to download a collection of resources and lesson ideas around this topic.
icon Closing_the_Budget_Gap.pdf (347 KB)

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