This engaging simulation and web activity guides students through five different sites dedicated to government transparency so that they can quantify corruptive influences on our legislative branch. Students quantify pork barrel spending and then move on to reveal who sponsors it, who doesn’t, how much lobbying influences earmarks, and how much recipients donate back to the campaigns of their sponsors. Students visit a site that is able to isolate the impact of gerrymandering on House districts so accurately that the organization correctly predicted 367/368 of the districts they analyzed in the last election BEFORE candidates even announced that they were running. They go on to discover how large a majority of the popular vote the Democrats would have to receive to regain control of the House (sorry pundits, it is HIGHLY unlikely under the current districting) and learn about a potential fix that is beginning to gain momentum. Then, students play an online game in which they gerrymander congressional district lines to insure election for the party of their choice. Students examine the power of the incumbency and how it, in combination with the Seniority System, allows senior legislators to control legislation coming out of committee in a way that often stifles systemic change at a tremendous cost to the nation. Then they grapple with the controversial issue of congressional term limits to decide if they would be wise. Afterward, students act as Members of Congress to cast votes on new legislation to reduce corruption in Congress. This is one of my students’ favorite activities of the year. It definitely makes a strong impression and spurs passionate debate!
INCLUDED IN THIS LESSON:
• Student Handouts
• Complete Lesson Instructions
• Links to Five Government Transparency Sites that are Student Friendly and Versatile for Future Research
• Link to an Online Gerrymandering Game
• Discussion Guide
• Answer Key
• Student Ballots
• Common Core Alignment
For other hands-on legislative branch simulations and activities, please consider:
FEDERAL DEFICIT SIMULATION AND ACTIVITY: CAN YOU BALANCE THE FEDERAL BUDGET?
POLITICS OF GOVERNMENT SPENDING: WHY CAN'T WE BALANCE THE FEDERAL BUDGET?
POLITICAL OPINION ON GOVERNMENT: WHAT IS GOOD, EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP?
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