Teacher’s Talk: Presidential Politics (Day 1 & 2)

We have had a great time working with all 14 students taking Presidential Politics.  We have been very impressed with their knowledge, enthusiasm, & ideas!

On Monday students came up with a list of criteria they would use as a historian to rank a president’s effectiveness.  The categories they listed were very similar to the criteria that most modern historians use to judge presidential leadership.  The students even came up with several categories that were very insightful to how they look at a president’s time in office.  Students also took a pre-assessment with AP & ACT Quality-Type Questions over Presidential Politics to see what they already knew about the modern presidents since 1960 including a couple of other presidents that we will be visiting their presidential libraries during our time at VAMPY.

During the afternoon on Monday our class collaborated with the Chinese class to hear a presentation over the British Parliamentary Debate System in which students from both classes came up with two topics that they are currently researching on how the two countries can improve our ties with each other looking forward to the future.  The topics they are researching are Pollution & Cyber Security / Protection of Intellectual Property.  The students will be participating in two debates with the Chinese class over these topics using the British Parliamentary Style Debate.  During Study Hall our students have been working on brainstorming ideas of pro & cons for each side on both topics as they will draw lots on Thursday morning one hour before they actually debate.

Lastly on Monday, students watched a short clip over the Kennedy Presidency in addition to evaluating how historians judge his time in office.  We discussed his goal of getting to the Moon, his crisis leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis before we had two students role-play Senator Kennedy & Vice-President Nixon during our fictional re-creation of one of the most famous TV debates they had.  I think we all agreed that the debate turned more or less into a Saturday Night Live version of how the debate went!  We had a lot of smiles as the remaining 12 students judged the debate based on their performance.  During Study Hall, in addition to gathering ideas for our debate with the Chinese class on Thursday, students worked on reading a packet over Nixon’s Visit to China & answering questions posed by a guest speaker that will be coming to visit our class and the Chinese class on July 3 to discuss the significance of ‘the week that changed the world.’  We are excited to have Mr. Morton Holbrook visit us next week as he first arrived in China in 1979 as an American diplomat to help open the new United States embassy.

On Tuesday we started off class evaluating the Kennedy presidency and discussing why Kennedy is ranked where he is on the ten criteria that historians use to evaluate a president.  We also watched a short clip over the Lyndon Johnson presidency in addition to looking at Johnson’s Great Society & his War on Poverty.  Students got to share their ideas of what they thought the appropriate role of the federal government should be with issues like poverty, education, health, & the environment.  We also examined a court case study involving a law that President Johnson & Congress passed regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that led to a court case ‘Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States.  After lunch we went to the library for an hour to research their information for Thursday’s debate with the Chinese class.  Some of the students also researched the Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona that we role-played during the last 30 minutes of class on Tuesday.  After we came back from the library, we were entertained by two of our students role-playing President Lyndon Johnson & Senator Goldwater as they had a fictional debate over the issues that were prevalent in the 1964 election.  We ended the class with our first whole-class role-play as we recreated the Miranda v. Arizona case that went before the Supreme Court.  Needless to say, it was an interesting court case as the prosecution & defense had some unique insight that they were trying to sell to the ‘real’ 9 judges who were sitting on the Supreme Court!  You will have to ask the students who won this court case as well as who they thought won each of our first two presidential debates that we had on Monday & Tuesday!  We hope to have pictures from these role-plays & debates soon!  As always it has been a joy to work with all 14 students in the class!

Dennis Jenkins