Civics, US Government, US History
American democracy faces a crisis – the crisis of noncompetitive elections. More and more, American elections consist of incumbents cruising to victory. In this lesson, students will be able to explain why congressional elections are noncompetitive, analyze the pros and cons of electing incumbents to Congress, and analyze the need for congressional term limits.
Step 1: Students will read the “Noncompetitive Elections for Congress” article by Lee Hamilton, The Center on Congress at Indiana University Website: http://centeroncongress.org/noncompetitive-elections-congress
Step 2: Divide students into groups of three.
Step 3: Pass out poker chips to the group giving each group member a different color. Assign a task based on the color. For example, the red chip will be the facilitator. The job of this student is to keep everyone on-task and be the spokesperson. The blue chip will be the time-keeper, and the white chip will be the reporter.
Step 4: The groups will participate in an 8-minute small group discussion based on the discussion prompts displayed on the LCD or overhead projector.
List the criticisms addressed in Lee Hamilton’s commentary.
Discuss the validity of the criticisms.
Discuss Hamilton’s response to public criticisms.
Step 5: Each group will share one or two major point(s) from the discussion with the class.
Step 6: Based on the students’ knowledge of Congress and the discussion, each group will make a list of pros and cons for keeping incumbents in Congress. The lists should be displayed around the classroom.
Step 7: For homework, students will prepare to debate term limits for Congress. They will need to find three sources supporting term limits and three sources opposing term limits. The students will need to turn in an annotated bibliography of these sources.
Step 8: Students will participate in a congressional debate on a constitutional amendment concerning term-limits.
Step 9: To close the assignment, students will create a list of improvements for congressional elections.
Photocopies of “Noncompetitive Elections for Congress” article by Lee Hamilton, The Center on Congress at Indiana University website: http://centeroncongress.org/radio_commentaries/noncompetitive_elections_for_congress.php
LCD or overhead projector
Poker chips and large chart paper
Wando High School
Mt. Pleasant, SC