Mitch McConnell Flunks US History

» 17 March 2016 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's » 2 Comments

Online_Privacy_and_the_Founding_FathersThe Founding Fathers wanted the Supreme Court to represent the “will of the people."  
___ True   ___ False

I have to keep Mitch after class to review how the Founding Fathers designed the Supreme Court

Any high school student who’s been paying attention would know that the correct answer is “false.” I’m guessing that Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans would incorrectly answer “True.” Remember - the central argument being raised by Republican Senators who refuse to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court is “Let the people have a voice.” So I’m going to keep Mitch (and his Senate buddies) after class to review how the Founding Fathers designed the federal judiciary selection process. The late Justice Antonin Scalia justified many of his decisions by claiming to know the Founding Fathers' “intent” - so let’s use the original constitution for this model. 

  1. Only a fraction of the American people (white, property-owning, males) are allowed to vote.
  2. Each state selects elite "electors" who have the final say in an elaborate procedure that serves as an indirect selection of the President.
  3. Each state legislature selects two Senators to represent the interests of the state. (Since they don't represent the American people, every state gets the same number of Senators).  Only 1/3 of Senate is up for reelection every two years. Senators serve a term of 6 years (vs 2 years for the popularly elected House of Representatives). The Founders gave the Senate the power to approve Presidential treaties and appointments because it was the legislative house most insulated from the whims of the electorate.
  4. The President nominates a Supreme Court justices. (Same for all other federal judges). A majority of the Senate must approve the President’s nomination to the court.
  5. Presidents and members of Congress have fixed terms, federal judges serve for life. Judges' salaries cannot be diminished during their time of service.
  6. The judge’s life tenure is “during good behavior.” Any high crimes and misdemeanors can be challenged by the popularly elected House of Representative through an impeachment (finally, there’s some “will of the people”). But the actual trial of the judge is handled by the Senate.

If the Founding Fathers believed the "people must have a voice" the constitution would have provided for popular election of federal judges. "Let the people decide" is an ironic justification when discussing the process for selecting a replacement for Scalia - the self-appointed champion of the Founding Fathers' intent.

Image credit: "Online Privacy and the Founding Fathers" By Matt Shirk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Teaching: The Opposite of Magic?

» 26 August 2015 » In Commentary, Teachers » No Comments


Magicians rely on secrecy and redirecting the audiences’ attention. Here’s how teachers do the opposite – draw attention to how thing are done and make thinking made visible.

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5 Ideas for Teaching in a Digital World

» 22 April 2015 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, Events, Presentations » 1 Comment


Life’s become an “open-book” test. So what does that mean for schools? Last week I gave the keynote at 5th Annual Ed Tech Summit on the beautiful Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland, Oregon. I offered 5 suggestions for teaching in the digital world.

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If A Pig Wore A Wig And Other Tales of School Reform

» 07 October 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy » No Comments


In “The Plot Against Public Education: How millionaires and billionaires are ruining our schools” Bob Herbert details the failed hit-or-miss reforms driven by corporate America’s assault on public education. Smaller schools, charters, on-line schools, and big testing have yet to deliver significant improvements in student performance. Why should a small group of America’s richest individuals, families, and foundations be allowed to exercise such overwhelming—and often such toxic—influence over the ways in which public school students are taught?

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Invaders Came from the North: French Attack on Upstate NY

» 17 September 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's » 2 Comments


Over 300 years ago the French sent the largest army ever seen in North America to attack the Seneca Nation of the Genesee Valley of Upstate NY. The expeditionary force set in motion a series of events that would ultimately result in the French expulsion from North America.

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Students at the Center of the Learning

» 08 September 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments


I learned to be an instructional designer – an architect of learning environments. I designed lesson “spaces” where the thinking was being done by my students. By “flipping” a few instructional components and providing a student-driven evaluation, my students will be at the heart of the lesson. I’ll be floating at the periphery. Here’s how.

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The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

» 17 August 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Strategies » 3 Comments


The video’s thesis is simple – robots are coming for our jobs. That begs the question – what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment?

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Learning to Think Like a Historian

» 03 June 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments


I’m joined by other educators who comment on “Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity.” Ideas on how to create a more engaging history classroom that teaches students the foundations of historical thinking. With links to more resources and a podcast.

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5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

» 14 October 2013 » In Commentary, Visualizations » No Comments


xkcd’s brilliant mockery of the explosion of “info-junk” should remind us that the best infographics should efficiently combine quantitative data, prompt pattern recognition and cogent visual storytelling. Perhaps aspiring infographic designers would do well to revisit the work of the Edward Tufte, the guru of the art form. His five rules of “Graphical Excellence” are detailed and illustrated with an example he considers “best narrative graphic of space and time.”

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PBL: I Come to Understanding by Making

» 11 September 2013 » In Commentary » No Comments


Watch this short video as Matthew Shlian talks about himself, how he learns and the role that curiosity plays in his work. Then think about the kind of classroom that would foster Matt and learners like him. He states, A lot of my work is about curiosity. I come to understanding by making. If I can see what something’s going to look like when it’s finished, then I don’t want to make it. That would be like filling out a form.

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