Congressional Moments Audio Series
Most people don’t stop to think about the role of government in their lives. However, if you take a minute to think about your daily activities, you will discover that government impacts your life more than you probably realize. Through the years Members of Congress have identified problems in our society, discussed and debated possible solutions, and enacted legislation that addressed the issues. Although it has certainly made missteps, Congress overall has made a difference, improved the quality of lives for individuals, and strengthened the nation.
The Congressional Moment Radio Series describes some notable legislative achievements and explains how Acts of Congress have affected our lives. All of the Congressional Moment radio programs are listed below. Click on any title to access the program. You can also print and view some teaching suggestions, below.
Age Discrimination — 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Agricultural Extension Service — Getting agricultural research to farmers, 1914
Americans with Disabilities Act — Improving access, 1990
Bilingual Education — Bilingual programs in schools, 1968
Centers for Disease Control — Preventing disease outbreaks, 1946
Child Labor Laws — 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act
Civil Rights Act — Access to public facilities, 1964
Clean Air Act — Air pollution restrictions, 1963
Delaney Clause — Food safety, 1958
Disaster Relief — Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1979
Ending the Military Draft — 1973 Act
Environmental Protection — Setting up EPA, 1970
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — Government secrecy, 1966
GI Bill — GI benefits after WWII
Gun Control — Restrictions in 1968 Act
Hill-Burton Act — Hospital construction, 1946
Homeless Assistance — McKinney Act, 1987
I.D.E.A. — Education for children with disabilities, 1997
Immigration Reform — 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act
Marshall Plan — Rebuilding Europe after WWII
Medicare — Hospital care for seniors, 1965
Morrill Land Grant College Act — Promoting state universities, 1862
National Cancer Act — Cancer research, 1971
National Highway System — Setting up interstate highways, 1956
National Park Service — Protecting national parks, 1916
National Science Foundation — Support for scientific research, 1950
Orphan Drug Act — Drugs for rare diseases, 1983
O.S.H.A. — Workplace safety and health, 1970
Pell Grants — Grants for college tuition, 1972
Project Head Start — Preschool program, 1969
Safe Drinking Water — National safety standards, 1974
Securities and Exchange Commission — Stock market oversight, 1934
Social Security — 1935 Act
Title IX — Women's athletic programs, 1972
Toxic Substances — Regulating chemical industry, 1976
Voting Rights Act — 1965 Act
War Powers — Strengthening role of Congress, 1973
Whistleblower Protection — Exposing government missteps, 1989
The Congressional Moment radio programs can be used to teach students in grades five through high school about the role government plays in our lives. These programs can also be incorporated in lessons about representative democracy and the legislative process. Below are some ideas on how you can use Congressional Moments in your classroom. These suggestions span a range of subjects and skill levels, so not every idea will apply to your situation. Choose what works best for your students.
The Role of Congress
Distribute copies of the Constitution. Ask students to read Article I and identify the powers delegated to Congress in the Constitution. Tell students that the Constitution lists the powers of Congress, but it does not define the exact duties of a Member of Congress. Have students read “The Many Roles of a Member of Congress.” Discuss the duties and responsibilities of a Member of Congress. Then have students name some ways they think Congress impacts their own lives. Explain to students that through the years Congress has enacted many laws that contribute to the well-being and safety of citizens. Have students listen to the Congressional Moments radio programs and learn about some of the laws Congress has passed.
Setting the Public Agenda
Have each student write down two or three problems in the community or at the state or national levels that they think Congress should address. Remind them that Congress passes legislation at the federal — not the state or local — level, which means that their recommendations would impact the entire nation. Compile these problems into a list and write this list on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or overhead transparency. There should be a fairly wide range of possibilities arising from this discussion, even though students might be from a fairly similar set of backgrounds whose diversity might not approach the diversity of the population in our country. Explain to students that setting the policy agenda is a challenge for legislators in Congress because they represent diverse communities. Then ask students to listen to the Congressional Moment radio programs and learn about some of the public issues Congress addressed in the past.
Coming to a Consensus
Explain to students that legislators must work with a diverse group of people who represent different interests and eventually come to some type of agreement. Choose one issue from a Congressional Moment radio program and present it to the class. Separate the students into small groups. Have each group represent one of the following: a specific interest group, a political party, a specific U.S. Senator or Representative, other state or local officials, and executive branch departments. Each group should learn more about its viewpoint of the issue and develop a list of goals and needs in regards to the issue. S eparate students into new groups. Each group should have a member from each of the groups established earlier. Have the groups come to a consensus and develop a solution to the problem. Students should argue their case but also be willing to compromise in order to meet the end goal: a bill that can continue through the process to become a law. Have each group present its solution to the class. Then ask students to listen to the Congressional Moment radio program and learn how Congress addressed the issue.
Discuss the role of citizens in a representative democracy. As a class, generate a list of ways citizens can influence public policy. Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a different Congressional Moment. Ask each group to listen to the assigned radio program. Have each group conduct research to find out how individuals and groups influenced legislators to pass laws that addressed the issue. Allow all the groups to present their findings. Then have each group identify a problem in the community that requires a public policy solution, gather and evaluate information about the problem, develop a justifiable solution to the problem, and think of ways that legislators can be influenced to pass a law or that government officials can be convinced to develop a policy.
Impact of Government
Have students listen to the Congressional Moment radio programs. Then tell students to visit the Brookings Institute Web site and read Government’s 50 Greatest Endeavors, which can be found using the search box. Discuss how government impacts our lives. Ask students to identify five Acts of Congress they think have had the most impact on their own lives. Have students create a display that describes the five acts and explains how they have impacted their own lives.
The Influence of Public Opinion
Tell students to choose one Congressional Moment radio program. Then ask students to go to the local library or conduct a search on the Internet and read archived newspaper articles about the issue. Have students find out what public opinion polls said about the issue. Ask students to determine whether or not Congress did what public opinion seemed to favor. Discuss the influence of public opinion on the development of public policy and the political process. Explain to students that, on a daily basis, legislators are approached by individuals and interests groups with differing views about how they should vote on a bill. They never hear total agreement on an issue. Legislators carefully consider individual views and public opinion polls, but they also study issues and reach their own conclusions about what is best for their constituents, their local region, and the nation.
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