Exploring some of the bizarre local laws that result from Federalism

This might be kind of fun for discussing basic concepts about laws, the legislative process, and judicial review. I’d consider doing it early in the semester as an overview of basics of government or perhaps specifically when discussing judicial branch. The fact that it’s focused on Georgia and features an interview with a professor at GSU College of Law makes it particularly appealing.

Why Can’t Georgians Live On A Boat For More Than 30 Days? And Other Odd State Laws

Link to US Civitas Facebook Discussion Thread

Understanding political attitudes: when identity trumps ideology and national interests

More on how social identity — here, racial / ethnic identity — can trump (!) ideology and interests.

“This is a dynamic Tesler describes well. “In the post-civil rights era, Democrats needed to maintain their nonwhite base without alienating white voters,” he said. “So their incentive was silence. And Republicans needed to win over white voters without appearing racist. So their incentive was to speak about race in code. The shifts now have made it so Democrats’ incentive is to make explicitly pro-racial equality appeals and Republicans now have an incentive to make more explicit anti-minority appeals.”

Take that idea and extend it out into the coming decades of American politics. The Democratic Party will not be able to win elections without an excited, diverse coalition. The Republican Party will not be able to win elections without an enthused white base. Democrats will need to build a platform that’s even more explicit in its pursuit of racial and gender equality, while Republicans will need to design a politics even more responsive to a coalition that feels itself losing power.”


White threat in a browning America‘-Vox News

Link to US Civitas Facebook discussion thread

Video: Understanding the grey areas of freedom of speech via the censorship of Alex Jones

Lots here on freedom of speech, including the fact that First Amendment applies only to government action and that, therefore, private social media platforms are free to restrict or allow speech at will. (“Censorship,” as a constitutional law matter, is only when government restricts speech.) There is also mention of the fact that “hate speech” is not a legally recognized category of speech. Note, also, the claim that Jones is best contested through an open marketplace of ideas; that the truth will prevail if ideas and facts have a fair chance to be expressed and revealed. You might ask students if they think this actually works in the case of Jones followers, who seem to believe Jones is the arbiter of truth, and that most of the facts and ideas that have long prevailed through the marketplace of ideas are myths fabricated by our conspiring overlords.

Link to PBS Newshour video

Link to US Civitas Facebook discussion thread

Democracies are losing the hearts and minds of their citizens, world’s largest study on trust in government finds

I haven’t closely examined this study, but the executive summary is jaw-dropping:

“The Democracy Perception Index (DPI) finds a majority of people around the world feel like they have no voice in politics and that their governments are not acting in their interest (51% and 58% respectively). In particular, they have little faith that their government is formed “by the people” and works “for the people”. / Perhaps most surprisingly, this public disillusionment is higher in democracies than in non democracies. Almost two thirds (64%) of people living in democracies thinks their government “rarely” or “never” acts in the interest of the public, compared with 41% of people living in non-democracies.”

Link to Alliance of Democracies report

Link to US Civitas Facebook discussion thread

Thread exemplifying the distinction between violent and non-violent politics/ideologies in the Alt-Right vs. Antifa context

Image result for antifa alt right

This would be great for discussing ideologies and the idea that politics (in my modified-Crickian sense) consists of a set of free nonviolent activities (and that this commitment to freedom and nonviolence sets its apart from other forms of power struggle). Both ideas converge in this discussion of the “alt-right” and “antifa” movements in this thread. On the two-dimensional ideological spectrum that I introduce in Ch. 3, both movements would be low on the vertical axis because they both are authoritarian. But they are literally violently opposed to one another on the left vs. right axis because one seeks to create a white male ethno-state while the other seeks to stop them (because they envision a deeply egalitarian multicultural society).

Link to discussion thread authored by Political Scientist David Neiwert

Link to US Civitas Facebook post

White paper: The Republic is (Still) at Risk– and Civics is Part of the Solution

I took two classes at Maryland with one of the co-authors of this article (Peter Levine). He’s a very smart and insightful scholar, and he is a thought leader in the effort to revive civic education. This report covers a lot about both the sad state of civic education and what we know about how to improve it.

Link to document

Link to US Civitas Facebook Discussion Thread


‘Opening Day’ Icebreakers

Here are four recommended discussion questions for the first day of class. (I would probably only use one question, but these are four suggestions for ones to choose from.):

(1) Why is this course required for all Georgia college students? Should it be?
(2) How many ways did government influence your life from the time you woke up this morning up until now?
(3) Business corporations wield an enormous amount of power in our society. How is a business corporation similar to a government? How are they different? (gets them warmed-up for Chapter 1 of my textbook)
(4) What is the purpose of government? (this is a good warm-up for Chapter 2 of my textbook, so I would probably not use this the first day if using my textbook)

Any other ideas? What do you think of these?

#FirstDayOfClass #DiscussionQuestions


Link to US Civitas Facebook Discussion thread

Video: Let’s teach mastery-not test scores

Some food for thought regarding the direction higher education may be heading. I recoiled when he listed “high need areas” as “finance and design.” (My top 2 would be “civics and public policy.”) But I like a lot about Khan’s visions for K-12 and perhaps higher education. Whether you agree with him or not, he’s definitely a thought leader on K-20 education reform, so it’s important to be familiar with his ideas for navigating our profession. (I’m big fan also of his ideas about mastery and mindset — see this Ted Talk for more). #HigherEdFuture #MasteryLearning #GrowthMindset

Link to US Civitas Facebook Discussion Thread


Thread: Jeff Lazarus explains how electoral considerations pressure Congressional party compliance with the Presidential order

Professor Jeff Lazarus on the first thing every student of Congress must know: nearly all members need to be reelected, and this ultimately requires taking heed of how one’s constituents view the President / the party of the President.

Link to thread

Link to US Civitas Facebook Discussion Thread

Interesting thread on the emergence, evolution and nature of political norms

This obviously isn’t anything we’d try to use or discuss in introductory American Government courses, but this is interesting nonetheless for thinking about and understanding emerging politics on the left and the nature and origin of political norms…

Corey Rubin’s thread on norm erosion

Link to US Civitas Facebook Discussion Thread