PROGRAM UPDATE: Judicial Decision-Making

New for 2017, WorldView Software’s U.S. Government: An Interactive Approach has new resources for learning more about how judges and justices makes decisions.

The overview of Chapter 11: The Judiciary contains a new discussion of the doctrine of originalism, along with ancillary factual and conceptual questions and glossary terms that support learning and assessment:

Screenshot of Chapter 11: The Judiciary
Screenshot of new factual question

BulbgraphOnOffUse a video capture tool like Recap for formative assessment: have students describe the readings in their own words, using the Questions for Thought as prompts.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

PROGRAM UPDATE: Presidential Powers

New for 2017, WorldView Software’s U.S. Government: An Interactive Approach has new resources for learning more about the president of the United States.

Chapter 9: The Presidency has a new image with introduction and questions called Graph: Executive Orders, which shows the use of these orders in comparison by president from FDR through Obama:

Screenshot of Graph: Executive Orders

Chapter 9: The Presidency also has an updated overview and revised conceptual questions that reflect President Trump’s use of social media, and new glossary terms (which are linked from their context in the overview).

Screenshot of Chapter 9: The Presidency overview showing linked terms that are defined in the glossary.

BulbgraphOnOffUse our databank of study questions in a polling service such as in Google Classroom to do quick mid-stream assessments.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Tiny Fish Brain GPS

What’s the value of discovering that fish larva, about the size of my thumbnail, has a compass in its brain?

Source: Tiny Fish Brain GPS

[Great post that ties together basic and applied scientific research, and the importance of both for policy.  Recommended for starting discussions for civics, U.S. government, and economics classes.]

Finding Patterns in Political Money

If your U.S. Government class is up to Chapter 7: Campaigns and Voting, you’re probably discussing the ins and outs of campaign finance.  Want to take the discussion even further?  Try exploring some of the data sets annotated below.

The Anomaly Tracker from OpenSecrets tracks six kinds of money-in-politics data:

  1. Lawmakers sponsoring legislation that was lobbied by only one company or other organization whose employees or PAC also donated to the sponsoring lawmakers.
  2. Lawmakers receiving twice as much in contributions from their top donors as their next highest donors.
  3. Lawmakers receiving twice as much in contributions from their top donor industries as their next highest donor industries.
  4. Lawmakers receiving more than 50 percent of their itemized contributions from out of state.
  5. More than 50 percent of a committee or candidate’s spending is paid to a single vendor.
  6. PACs giving at least $7,500 to a candidate’s Leadership PAC but nothing to the candidate’s committee.

Of course, the existence of an anomaly is not by itself evidence of shenanigans!  But since patterns can be studied for systemic meaning, anomalies in those patterns should be investigated and explained.

There are other databases to explore that might shed light on political money.  One is the Database on Ideology, Money in Politics, and Elections (DIME) at Stanford University which “contains over 100 million political contributions made by individuals and organizations to local, state, and federal elections spanning a period from 1979 to 2012. A corresponding database of candidates and committees provides additional information on state and federal elections.”

The other is the Money, Politics and Transparency database, which scores countries on five issues:

  1. Direct and Indirect Public Funding during Campaigns
  2. Restrictions on Contribution and Expenditure
  3. Reporting Requirements and Public Disclosure
  4. Third-Party Actors
  5. Monitoring and Enforcement
MPT scorecard for Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, and Turkey
Each country has two scores: in law (which measures the strength of its existing regulations), and in practice (which measures how well the laws are enforced). The scores are then averaged and weighted to give a composite score.

Comparisons to other systems can help people figure out what works and what doesn’t in terms of keeping politics free from the corruption of money.  Both databases are funded in part by the Sunlight Foundation, which works to make governments open, transparent, and accountable.

[The featured image is a screen grab of Graph: Political Party Finances from WorldView Software’s U.S. Government.]


BulbgraphOnOffUse social media such as a Twitter hashtag to create a running stream of questions during lectures, then go back and discuss.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

 

United and divided responses to complex urban issues

“There are increasing suggestions that extreme weather events and climate change will have the greatest impact in cities, where people are concentrated and many of the natural systems that could provide buffers against extreme weather have been removed or degraded. When one starts to deconstruct the causes and impacts of natural disasters, the messiness and interconnectedness of contributing factors quickly become evident. Natural disasters occur at the intersection of social, political and environmental systems.”

— from Geography Directions

[Raises some interesting issues about community preparedness; useful discussion points if your class is reading any of the following:

  • Chapter 18: The U.S. Adapts to a Post-9/11 World in American History II
  • Case Study: Insurance in Civics and in Economics
  • Chapter 10: The Federal Bureaucracy in U.S. Government
  • Chapter 23: Search for Solutions to Global Problems, Graph/Chart: Growth of Cities in the Middle East, or Graph/Chart: Urbanization in Latin America in World History B

 

How Do Polls Work?

By now, many of you have no doubt seen more presidential polling results than you ever wanted to see!  But too many people equate internet polls such as the one featured above (from cheezburger.com) with scientific polls conducted by major news organizations.  How can you tell which of them are valid measures of public opinion, and which are not?

Start with Project: Conducting a Poll in WorldView Software’s U.S. Government.  Try it out, and then critically evaluate the results.  Here are some guiding points for questions students should be asking about their data:

  1. What was the difference between the total population of people whose opinion they wanted to know and the number of people who actually answered the poll?
  2. Did people have a choice to take the poll or not?
  3. Could people respond to the poll more than once?
  4. Was one group of people more represented in the poll than another? Why or why not?
  5. How were the questions asked — did they notice they got a better response rate from one method over another, such as internet over in-person?
  6. How were the questions asked — did the questions use loaded language that hinted at the “right” answer?
  7. How were the questions asked — were they yes-or-no, multiple choice, etc.?
  8. and so on…

Then apply this methodology to the polls out there.  Count the differences between this poll from Breitbart (warning: overlay popup ad):

"You watched at home — now make your voice heard! Who won the third debate? Vote below to tell us who you believe was tonight’s winner: Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump"Donald Trump 52.82% (145,324 votes), Hillary Clinton 47.18% (129,785 votes)

 

 

 

 

and these polls, aggregated at RealClear Politics:

polling results from multiple polls

For a deeper dive into how polling works, visit the Pew Research Center’s Methods page.  There, you’ll find all sorts of information, such as how to figure out a poll’s margin of error.  Especially recommended reading: the overview “Flashpoints in Polling” by Claudia Deane, Courtney Kennedy, Scott Keeter and Kyley McGeeney.

UPDATE 12/06/2016: Very nice video from Scientific American explaining the math behind polling.


BulbgraphOnOffStudy questions can be used for formative assessment in the beginning of a lesson or for summative assessment at the end.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

October 4, 1775

At Bow Tie Tours we are cheerfully busy attempting to time travel away from all things Trump/Clinton/etc. into a place where things were, no doubt, much more difficult, but also much less trivial. …

Source: October 4, 1775

[We’re a little late re-blogging this, but it’s a nice point about the role of dissent in a democracy.  For more background on this essential right, see WorldView Software’s Civics, Chapter 10: Citizenship.]