Summer 2012 Newsletter

Cline, Festa-Daigle, Ochoa Receive American Civic Education Teacher Awards

Teachers from Indiana, Arizona and Utah are recipients of the 2012 American Civic Education Teacher Awards, recognizing their exemplary work preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens. The ACETA winners are: Kevin Cline of Frankton Jr. Sr. High School in Frankton, Ind.; Jaime Festa-Daigle of Lake Havasu High School in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; and Richard Ochoa, of Alta High School in Sandy, Utah.

The awards are given annually to elementary and secondary teachers of civics, government and related subjects who have demonstrated exceptional expertise, dynamism and creativity in motivating students to learn about the Constitution, Congress and public policy. ACETA is sponsored by the Center on Congress, the Center for Civic Education, and the National Education Association. Full Story 

Center’s Animated Video on Citizenship Earns Telly Awards

The Center on Congress video “Citizens Unite!” — a 10-minute cartoon teaching kids about the importance of citizen participation — has earned four Telly Awards, the premier recognition for excellence in film and video production.

The Telly Awards program was founded in 1979, and the 2011 competition attracted more than 11,000 entries, from all 50 states and five continents. Judging is by a panel of accomplished industry professionals, each of whom is a past winner of a Silver Telly, the highest honor. Less than 10 percent of entries are awarded a Silver Telly, and “Citizens Unite!” won two Silvers — one for Use of Animation, and another for Art Direction. In addition, the video won two Bronze Tellys — one in the Children’s Audience category, and another in the Education (for academic use) category. See the video at http://www.tpscongress.org/citizenship-video/Full Story  

Center Ventures Into Teaching via Tablet Computers With “Civic Quotes” App

Now available as a free app for the iPad tablet computer, and also on the web, is Civic Quotes, a new Center on Congress resource that uses notable quotations and images to teach about American government and citizenship in an engaging, interactive way. Civic Quotes takes the user through 64 primary-source images and related notable quotations from a variety of U.S. political leaders. Four topics are highlighted: representative democracy; the role and impact of government; the democratic process and compromise; and citizen participation.

Upon its debut, Civic Quotes earned mention in the “New and Noteworthy” section of the Apple iTunes store. Though developed primarily for the classroom, the app also is of interest to the general public. To access Civic Quotes on an iPad or the web, go to http://www.tpscongress.org/civic-quotes/. Full Story 

Center Invites Online Exploration of First Congress’s Lasting Impact

The Center’s new interactive online teaching resource, “The First Congress,” uses primary source images and documents from the Library of Congress collection to carry students back to 1789, when lawmakers met for the first time under the new Constitution and tackled the difficult business of setting up the basic structures of a national government. 

By any measure, the First Congress compiled a remarkable record, one that continues to shape our lives in modern-day America. “The First Congress” module (http://www.tpscongress.org/teachers/activity.php?id=36) looks at eleven major areas of congressional action from 1789 to 1791. Full Story 

PBS Newsman and Author Jim Lehrer Visits Bloomington as Hamilton Fellow

Jim Lehrer, distinguished journalist and executive editor and anchor of the "PBS NewsHour," spoke at Indiana University Bloomington on April 13, discussing the 2012 election campaign and his new book, "Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain." View Lehrer’s public talk at http://www.indiana.edu/~ias/?q=node/264 

While Lehrer was on campus, the Center on Congress and the Institute for Advanced Study presented him with the first Lee H. Hamilton Public Service Fellowship. "Jim Lehrer has set the standard for journalistic excellence, professional integrity and personal civility," said Hamilton, who served in Congress from 1965 to 1999. Full Story

Experts Surveyed on Congress’ Performance Give It a “C-minus” for 2011

A year of pitched partisan battles in Congress earned the institution a C-minus for its performance in 2011, according to political scientists asked by the Center on Congress to grade the national legislature.

The experts surveyed “believe that excessive partisanship limits the policymaking capacity of Congress and prevents the institution from being a full partner in governing the nation,” said Indiana University political scientist Edward G. Carmines, who is Director of Research for the Center on Congress. On the survey question about “keeping excessive partisanship in check,” the House received an F and the Senate a D. On the question asking whether the legislative process involves a proper level of consensus-seeking and compromise, the House drew a D grade, and the Senate a C-minus. Full Story   

The Public’s Opinions on Congress: Q & A with Ted Carmines

Examining the relationship between citizens and Congress — how people learn about, interact with, and evaluate the institution and its members — has been an important focus for the Center on Congress since its founding in 1999. The Center regularly conducts public opinion polls to gauge if Americans feel Congress is relevant to their lives and is living up to the framers’ expectations that it should be the responsive “people’s branch” of the federal government.

Overseeing this survey work is the Center’s Director of Research, Edward G. Carmines. Here in a question-and-answer format, Carmines discusses the findings of the Center’s most recent public opinion survey on Congress. Full Story  

News Notes

• On June 19 in Bloomington, Center Director Lee Hamilton was one of the featured lecturers in IU’s “Mini University,” sponsored by the IU Alumni Association and the IU Bloomington School of Continuing Studies. “What You Should Know About Congress, and Why,” is the title of Hamilton’s lecture. On August 28, Hamilton and former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard will speak to the Indianapolis Rotary about the Indiana Civic Health Index. The first-ever INCHI was released in September 2011, by a coalition of Hoosier organizations promoting active citizenship and civic education.

• It takes just five minutes to get an overview of the Center’s mission and resources in our new video, which features Center Director Lee Hamilton and teachers who are using our materials to improve the public’s understanding of Congress, strengthen civic engagement, and teach the skills that are essential to the success of representative government. See http://www.centeroncongress.org/mission-and-resources-video

• As we increase use of social media to reach a broader audience, look to the Center’s Facebook postings for the latest information on our educational resources and programs. We encourage everyone, especially teachers and students, to follow us on Facebook (“Center on Congress at Indiana University”) and post thoughts about Congress, about the citizen’s role in representative democracy, and about the Center’s civic education materials.

About the Center 

The Center on Congress is a non-partisan, educational institution established in 1999 to help improve the public's knowledge of Congress and to encourage civic engagement. The Center developed out of Lee Hamilton's recognition during his 34 years in the U.S. House that Americans should be more familiar with Congress’s strengths and weaknesses, its role in our system of government, and its impact on the lives of ordinary people every day.

The Center offers an extensive array of civic education programs, projects and resources to foster an informed electorate that understands our system of government and participates in civic life. These include: print publications; Web-based, interactive modules and other online learning tools in English and Spanish; commentaries for newspapers; video and television in the classroom resources; seminars for journalists; and survey research.

The Center on Congress is supported in part by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington. 

Newsletter editor: Phil Duncan