Bolivian President Evo Morales fails to play fairread more...»
The October 2010 edition of FPTP, our digital magazine for A Level Politics teachers and students, is now available to subscribers. The articles are described briefly below.
A whole-school subscription to FPTP is just £50 and can be ordered hereread more...»
Last night I popped over to a talk by Adam Boulton - Political Editor of Sky News - given at our school’s political society. It was a fascinating hour in the company of one of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to the hidden wiring of British politics. Here is a collection of some of my tweetsread more...»
What conclusions, if any, can we draw from the Tea Party surge within the Republican Party?
A good idea for encouraging students to keep up-to-date with political developments is to slot into the weekly timetable a regular media slot.
If you are a student of American politics, then this post early in the academic year could well be my most important…
These are the sites I most frequently plunder when trying to keep abreast of developments in US politics. These are also the places therefore that I suggest students of the subject try to access as much as possible when trying to get to grips with the politics of the USA. In the same way as linguists recommend immersion learning when studying a new language, getting stuck into some of the US sites really does help.read more...»
Here is a starter activity that might help get your new Politics students (and the old, experienced, cynical ones too) working well together at the start of term.
This is a series of bingo cards, each of which features a 4x5 grid of well-known UK politicians. I say well known - but will your students know them too?
The bingo game works so simply. At the back of the file (linked below) are a couple of call cards. You dont have to shout them out in the order provided, so long as you tick the names off as they are called.
Call out the politician’s name from the call card. If the student (s) recognise him/her, they can tick it off their bingo card.
First student / team to get a column of four correct can win a prize or points. Then the first to get a completed row of five correct. Finally, more points or prizes available for the first to complete a whole card. There are two bingo cards on each A4 page, and 40 pages in total - so plenty to use (and they are all different). Enjoy.
If you like this resource, come over to our Facebook page and let us know. Perhaps suggest some other politicians you’d like us to include in the next version. Perhaps suggest another list we could could use for a new image-based bingo game (e.g. international politicians, world leaders, famous political buildings or events?).
Accessing a quality daily is an absolute must for students new to the study of British politics. But from experience I know that students find it difficult to know what to focus on, what particularly useful articles or comment pieces look like compared to analysis that isn’t directly relevant to the course.
Here on the blog I will try to provide some direction.read more...»
The September 2010 edition of FPTP is now available featuring eight great, topical articles from Rachel and her team of Politics Teachers and Examiners. The topics covered for September 2010 are:
* Europe: Where does the coalition stand? (Julie Smith)
* 2010 Senate Primaries – insurgent versus incumbent candidates (Nicolas Graham)
* The Coalition Government- The first 100 days (Rachel Fairhead)
* Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and the mid-term elections? (Nicholas Graham)
* Are judges in the United States political? (Kevin Bloor)
* The AV Referendum (Rachel Fairhead)
* Proposition 8 in California – where now? (Nicholas Graham)
* What’s next for UKIP? The leadership contest (Rachel Fairhead)
A whole-school subscription to FPTP is just £50 and can be ordered here
We have a new Facebook page and it will be full of news, links to resources and other goodies as the year develops. Have a look here! And perhaps sign up as a facebook fan!
A series in the Observer this week provides a rich source of material for teachers to plunder, or for students to use as part of a research exercise.
When conducting research for my previous posting I came across this. It seems that I can’t include three youtube clips in one posting, and it is a shame not to share this if you haven’t already seen it.
Down the left hand side of this page, often newsmax ask you to vote on whether Sarah Palin would get your vote in 2012. She is the theme of this posting.
I’ve come across a link to a host of documentaries that can be accessed online.
Further to my earlier posting on resources for the UK syllabus, listed below are the US books I have as desk copies.
If you are on the look out for resources, here is a list of British politics text books I found useful in teaching.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee’s Twelfth Report focused on Referendums in the United Kingdom and this document provides a wealth of background information for teachers and students.
A good resource from Google with the opportunity to enter your class or school’s votes into the election map, and be part of the national survey of how young people would vote.
Lots of developments recently regarding arms treaties and the control of nuclear weapons. This neat interactive graphic summarises which nation states currently have nuclear weapons, and also provides a summary timeline of the Arms Race
Further evidence that the judiciary can be engaging topic and one ripe for debate has cropped up just a few hours ago with news that Labour ministers and their counterparts on the opposition benches have turned DNA retention by the police into a political football.
You may remember that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in late 2008 that keeping the DNA details of innocent suspects was in breach of Article 8 of the rights convention, covering the right to privacy. In one sense this shows how the judiciary has sought to protect the rights of citizens, but the judiciary, of course, had no police force, and the government appealed whilst not altering policy. Hardly, therefore, very good protection.read more...»
Over the next few weeks I will try to provide important updates of examples that students can employ in exams.
First off, the always popular PM power debate. It’s incredible to think that about two thirds of the way through the current election campaign, Gordon Brown will have been PM for longer than John Kennedy was the American President. By my rough calculations JFK was President for 1036 days, and Brown has been in Number 10 for 1014 days. What’s my point? Brown often barely gets a mention in essays analysing where power lies within the core executive.
An article by Nicholas Watt in today’s Guardian got me thinking about how we can apply our wider reading in the exam hall.read more...»
This four minute TED talk is quite entertaining with a useful message - the potential for users online to create momentum and finally persuade a government to postpone a controversial project. The Founder of Reddit talks about how his users energised a Greenpeace campaign to stop whaling by the Japanese government.
Can the collective voice of soccer fans have an impact at the forthcoming General Election? This post from Henry Winter raises some fascinating questions about the potential for a new breed of supporter-led pressure groups who have the passion and sophistication to use the power of social action to drive for new legislation governing football ownership and finance.
Advance notice of a couple of Vietnam related documentaries this week as part of the excellent Storyville series. Vietnam is a war that has left deep scars on the American psyche and heavily shaped US foreign policy through to the 9/11 era. Monday 15 February, BBC4 10pm.
The demon sheep ad produced as part of the Republican Senate primary campaign in California is being widely hailed as a pythonesque absurd spoof, but is actually a sign of poor political taste…read more...»
The first in a three part series on the great departments of state kicked off on BBC4 last night. You can catch this one on the Home Office for the next 21 days on iplayer here. It really was a fascinating insight into the internal politics of Whitehall.
Next week’s is on the Foreign Office, it should be equally fascinating. Michael Cockerill is a great documentary maker.
A little while back I penned an article for t2u’s digital politics magazine outlining the steps that would need to be taken for electoral reform to become a reality for Westminster. In summary, these were: a possible hung parliament; a PM committed to change; a majority of Cabinet; MP support; safe passage through the Lords; and at some stage in all of this a plebiscite of the people.
Like an alignment of the stars, this seems to be taking shape.
Yesterday’s vote on a vote in the Commons on AV brings us closer to moving from simple plurality than at any stage in recent history.
The BBC has some great graphics on how a remodelled election would have played out over the past three decades. Useful stuff for considering the merits of change. From a personal perspective, this move by Labour continues the British tradition of tinkering with the constitution for reasons of short term political expediency. In other words, Brown is trying to cuddle up to the Lib Dems—a horrible image for all sorts of reasons.
I’m sure teachers of American Politics won’t need reminding about the virtues of watching the Daily Show, but students may need a gentle reminder.
The episode broadcast in the UK last night contained a hilarious analysis of Sarah Palin’s major speech at the Tea Party conference in Nashville. Palin is a phenomenon and never quite manages to steer herself away from unintended controversy. If you’re not sure what I’m on about watch a replay from the Channel 4 website. Of course, Jon Stewart is presenting from a left wing perspective and I share many of his personal biases, so it may not be to everyone’s taste!!
Many thanks to Andy Lawrence for producing this revision quiz on Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations:
Launch quiz on Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations
How successful has Obama been in delaing with Congress?
Listen to this audio clip from national public radio to find out!
From the BBC website.
A useful Q&A on electoral reform explaining the AV debate and providing an overview of the operation of the various systems used in the UK in plain English.
I’ll file this away for use when doing Unit 1 revision later in the year.
There’s a useful two page spread on Obama’s presidency one year on in today’s Independent—here is the link to the web version.
The BBC devotes a special section to the one year anniversary.
And see how you get on with the one year quiz!!!
I’m definitely going to use all the abundant material for students to do a webquest presentation on his first year. A nice way to start Unit 4C having just completed the 3C exam. Andy Lawrence has posted details of a similar exercise on Cameron the t2u Pol teachers forum.
More interesting stuff on Obama for teaching and learning. A great article on Obama and race here. Younge is a corking journalist who has written two very readable books on the US, which are suggested reading for students of America. He has also made a documentary for the World Service entitled “Opposing Obama”, first airing scheduled for the 1st of Feb. List of times is here.
Obama and me on BBC Two might not offer great academic insight, but may give you a slice of insight into modern America.
Many thanks to Rachel Fairhead who has produced another classroom poster set - time focusing on electoral systems. The topics covered are:
- The Functions of Elections
- Elections used in the UK
- The First Past the Post System
- The arguments for and against the FPTP system
- Different types of electoral system available to use
- Examples of Plurality, Majoritarian, Hybrid, PR Systems
- The strengths and weaknesses of the different alternative systems
- Electoral reform
There’s a raft of material out there on Obama at the moment to coincide with the President’s first year in office. This seems like the second anniversary in recent months since the media sought to celebrate his “first year” back in Nobvember when, of course, this marked 12 months since he was elected, not when he was sworn in.
For the next few days you can see the second part of Simon Schama’s BBC documentary on Obama.
A stunning online slideshow here from Reuters tells the story of a decade of global terror and violence. Many of the images are hard-hitting. All are thought-provoking. An amazing resource to use as stimulus material for Politics units covering global issues.
BBC Political Editor takes us on a 5 minute video guide through the House of Commons as part of the excellent Democracy Live service
A super new interactive resource here from the BBC which allows users to track the trends, data and events behind the opinion polls over the last 20-30 years.
Many thanks to Rachel Fairhead for producing another super set of classroom posters - this time on the UK Judicial system.
I’m delighted that tutor2u has been asked to organise the 2010 edition of Challenge the Chancellor - a popular Spring term competition that is open to Politics students. More details can be found here on the competition home page of the Business Studies blog. Its a great and simple competition to enter, with some lovely prizes too.
Many thanks to Andy Lawrence for putting together this Auction House starter activity / quiz on Anarchism…read more...»
I wonder if this clip by Tim Harford will provoke debate among students about race, whether in the UK or the USA.
Want to get a flavour of the degree of partisanship in modern American politics?
Say the Observer:
“Glenn Beck is a TV host, bestselling author and the most influential voice on the rightwing Fox channel. Now, even some Republicans worry that the extreme and maverick views of Beck and his supporters will make their party unelectable. Is the TV tail wagging the political dog?”
Read the rest of the article and listen to this classic five minute radio rant by the man himself. It takes a little time to load up, but it is hilarious. And just a little bit scary!read more...»
I’ve just sent this to my upper sixth sets. It may be of some wider use.
Many thanks to Rachel Fairhead for writing the first in a new series of classroom poster collections for AS/A2 Government and Politics…read more...»
For reasons that are possibly too mundane to go into I have just read the special report on Texas from a summer edition of the Economist.
It is absolutely fascinating as a means of gaining a deeper insight into a rapidly changing state, and is a treasure trove of Americana. Did you know for instance that Texas is one of four states where whites are a minority, or that tequila was invented there?
Lone Star rising
The best and worst of Texas
The red and the blue
The new face of America
Iain Martin has an exclusive over at the Wall Street Journal. He has been been handed a dodgy dossier which details the Conservative leadership’s fraught decision making process as they attempted to come up with the new policy. It is based on minutes of top secret meetings held in recent months and for historians offers a rare glimpse of the inner workings of the Tory high command.
The BBC has launched a new online service that should make tracking politics on film easier.
There’s also a very useful section on the various governing institutions, what powers they have, and so forth.
I also came across a section on the online archives on Mrs Thatcher. Lots of clips and Panorama interviews that I once stored on VHS tapes.
Is available as a pdf from the New Statesman website, and contains lots of useful stuff on where to study Politics as well as a guide from a number of authors about one new and one old book those interested in politics should read.
The Thick of It returns this weekend with an eight week run on BBC Two and I for one cannot wait! The foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker has a new Secretary of State to deal with. Fans of In The Loop and earlier series of the Thick of It can now organise their Sunday nights until Christmas! Here is a preview article from the Independent.
The CBI’s report on funding of higher education throws up an array of possibilities as a teaching tool
Watch this report by Lyndsey Hilsum from Wednesday’s Channel 4 news.
There’s lots of writing in today’s Guardian which overlaps with the kind of stuff that has been cropping up in discussion in my introductory lessons.
Here Michael White delivers a forensic, but short, analysis of what the future holds for the Green Party.
There’s a very useful section on the Guardian website which picks out the best political articles and columns.
I’ve just received news of an exciting opportunity to hear the deputy PM in all but name speak on the electoral challenges facing his government. Given that it’s this following Monday, It’s probably too short notice for our classes to make the trip into town given all the health and safety compliance that would need to be done. But one would hope that readers of the blog will be able to make it.
Read on for further details.read more...»
Details of national A level figures in today’s Telegraph suggest a recent surge of interest in study of Politics.
Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State!read more...»
What do a couple of the most powerful men in the world get up to at international summits?read more...»
Further to an earlier posting, I have details of the report I set for my post AS groups entitled “A political introduction to America”. Participation was voluntary and the quality of entries was high.
Congratulations to Rebecca Salkeld, who in 2,000 words produced an excellent piece that is as good as could be expected from a candidate who has only been studying US Politics for a couple of weeks.
Rebecca’s submission is posted below, and the Amazon vouchers will be winging their way to her email account soon.read more...»
For fans of the classic comedy series “The Day Today”, you may think that this is the work of another set of comedians of a similarly twisted disposition.read more...»
The latest articles on First Past the Post - tutor2u’s digital magazine for Politics Teachers and Students - are now available to download:
BNP on the rise?
This article examines the importance of electoral participation.
Brown on the brink
This article looks back at the week which contained the resignation of six cabinet ministers and a disastrous set of local election results for New Labour.
Here we assess New Labour’s devolution settlement ten years on.
Prospects for electoral reform
Despite Gordon Brown’s promise of a review of the election system, fptp is unlikely to be replaced in the foreseeable future.
Federalism in the Obama era
An update on federal-state relations in 2009.
The latest in a series of comparative politics articles looks at how well legislatures in the UK and USA control the executive.
USA: people and politics
Before embarking on study of the politics of America, it is useful to have some understanding of its people. Here we look at demographic change in the country.
I can recommend visiting the Politics and History blog at Nonsuch High School. Fresh and topical - a great example of how to maintain an excellent departmental blog.
I came across this fascinating conversation between behavioural economist Dan Ariely and Evan Davis on the Today programme which explores why many people choose to cheat a little - there is a strong connection here between rules, social norms and the behaviour of MPs.
Anyone looking at synoptic questions about the ability of the UK and US political systems to uphold civil liberties may wish to consider this story.read more...»
I’ve put together a list of resources on President Obama. This could be accessed by students or teachers for a host of purposes.read more...»
A few quick questions to work on for students starting a US Politics courseread more...»
Friday’s Guardian has a double page wallchart of the new government. It is also available as a pdf - looks nice slotted into student folders.
Some hints and tips with approaching the forthcoming US Politics examsread more...»
William Hague doesnt want to answer questions about the “elephant in the room” - the tax status of Lord Ashcroft, the financier bankrolling the Conservative election campaign. That’s despite Jeremy Paxman asking him a few times…read more...»
Here are details of an idea about getting something interesting and productive done once students come back after the AS exams. If you are one of the lucky institutions that doesn’t welcome back students after AS exams are over, then this could work equally well as a bit of summer homework.read more...»
A must-watch video shows Conservative MP facing the media and his constituents after a meeting of party members….read more...»
A classic example of how a well-orchestrated pressure group campaign can result in a dramatic change of government policy.read more...»
I’ve come across this useful primer from the New York Times on the race for the presidency
A note, with links to Amazon, on three new editions in the run up to exam timeread more...»
How one of this blogger’s favourite TV shows may help with revision
Nick Robinson has written an excellent blog piece about comparisons between the first ever Prime Minister and the current one. Details of his related BBC Radio4 programme are here as well.
From the trailer this looks like a compelling production, so it’s recommended viewing for all Politics students.
26 Feb 2009, 21:00 on BBC Two
From the BBC press office:read more...»
Buried in the Education section of Tuesday’s Guardian is an interview with Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government at Oxford. Bogdanor is one of the most established authorities on the constitution and some of his observations are useful when considering the impact of constitutional reforms undertaken by Labour post 1997.read more...»
It has been reported in the press this week that a landlord is fighting the police over their insistence that he install CCTV cameras in his pub. Elsewhere doctors have spoken out against governmennt plans to widen access to medical records to all Whitehall departments. These two events come in the week that a House of Lords committee published a damning report on the threat to liberty brought about by the development of a surveillance state. A great site for exploring the latest news on attempts by the state to erode the liberties of the people living in the oldest parliamentary democracy, the land of Locke and Mille is here.
I was talking today to my AS class about easy ways to keep up to date with politics as they are so reluctant to read a “proper paper” (no, I tell them, the Metro doesn’t count). I suggested that they dip into some of the range of excellent podcasts that are available.read more...»
Yesterday I had one of the most animated group discussions in some time when discussing the relative effectiveness of crime strategies which focused on prevention versus tougher deterrants in the shape of stiffer prison sentences. It seems incredibly difficult to square a circle which desires more liberalisation in the shape of personal freedoms versus an approach to solving crime that doesn’t come straight out of a Daily Mail editorial page.
Today there is an agency report suggesting that certian class A drugs be downgraded. More food for thought when discussing civil liberties, law and order, etc.
See the Big Question as a starting off point.
Thought I’d use this space to echo Jim Riley’s offer in the recent teacher newsletter to appeal to any blog readers who are experienced teachers or examiners who may be interested in writing either for this blog or for first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine.
Contributing certainly aids professional development, and I’m sure subscribers to both services would like to see more diverse opinion than my tired ramblings.
If you would like to get involved, please contact Jim Riley via the contact form.
We’ve just kicked off our study (after a bonus two days rest due to snow) of the Edexcel Unit 6 paper examining the UK and US political systems in a comparative context. It can seem a bit daunting at first to draw together different strands of the course and compare and contrast them meaningfully. And for some at the moment it seems like I am asking them to compare apples and bananas. Possible, but perhaps a bit pointless. So I thought I’d share some of the thoughts I expressed to my classes on this since there may be blog readers out there in a similar predicament.read more...»
I make a big play to students thinking of signing up for Politics in the sixth form (and we don’t do too badly for numbers - roughly a quarter of the lower sixth take the subject, and we are the 4th most popular in terms of bums on seats in that year group) that at the very least they will end one year of study with a good understanding of how their country’s governmental systems works. But do they? The conscientious class student should end up with more ability than the man in the street to discuss the workings of the single transferable vote, or be able to recognise that the introduction of a new Parliament at Holyrood has thrown into sharp relief the problems of asymmetrical devolution.
But when it gets to the nuts and bolts of legislating and governing, what then?read more...»
The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, has been posted on the site.
Given the importance of the recent American elections, there is a bit of a US slant, but there are great articles covering UK politics, the EU, UK issues, as well as political ideologies.read more...»
A pointer towards a raft of events that will undoubtedly be of interest to teachers and/or students.
First up, notification of an excellent study tour opportunity in April for teachers from the European Atlantic Movement:
‘This is a study tour for Lecturers, Teachers, other Professional and Business People who are interested in visiting the institutions of Western Co-operation and discussing current affairs
The party will visit the European Parliament, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), the European Commission, the Council of the European Union among others. Briefings, Q & A sessions and opportunities to gather supportive literature will for part of every visit.
The cost including travel by Eurostar and 3 nights en suite accommodation with breakfast at the 4* Hotel Carrefour de l’Europe which is situated in the centre of Brussels.’
Sometimes there is little to report from the weekend’s press in terms of must read British Politics stories, but this weekend is the polar opposite.
There is an excellent article by Nick Cohen about how reform is driven by short term political expedeincy rather than long term thinking about the rational basis of change.
One to cut out and keep for when covering this topic.
Yes, that’s a young Gordon.
Taking a break from clicking my way through student responses in Edexcel’s Unit 1 exam I have scanned the weekend’s papers looking for quality articles that could be used for the media Monday sessions. If you are unfamiliar with the concept I attempt to get my L6 students to start the week’s lessons by discussing an article they have read from the week’s press. Why? Attempting to connect with Politics as a subject has obvious dividends in helping what’s covered in class make sense, or have a sense of importance. Moreover, examining the work of quality journalists should have net gains in terms of improving political vocabulary and presenting coherent arguments. This is why sourcing one’s news from the tabloids or the free papers (which after all are just the Sun without the ridiculously bold type - come on, have you actually read a substantive article in any of those?) is insufficient if the aim is to improve quality of expression throughout the two years of A level study.
Anyway, I think the best writing on British politics I have seen comes from Saturday’s Guardian. Patrick Wintour writes on how the government’s response to the economic crisis has not left a lasting positive impression on voters.read more...»
Do we as Politics teachers sometimes presume too much about the knowledge base of our students? Should we offer a mea culpa from time to time, pause, reflect and work through what we see as the basics? Probably.
I have stumbled across this excellent guide the operation of US government. Okay, it only covers the federal branches, but it should cover a lot of the ground that I hadn’t realised needed to be covered when doing a quick bit of revision today.
Listening to the radio this morning I heard a report on Barack Obama’s attempt to woo over Republicans to support his economic stimulus plan. I thought that this would make an interesting story to relate to my British Politics students who have just started the Edexcel Unit 2 paper.read more...»
On YouTuberead more...»
Race relations in the US Politics is probably the most interesting topic as far as my current crop of students are concerned. What better time to consider whether pursuit of the American Dream is a realistic proposition for African Americans than now. The inauguration of the first ever black President suggests that equality is possible, but a couple of the YouTube clips I use when considering the issue of race in America here suggest that race remains the main dividing line issue in the USA.read more...»
A heads up for Saturday’s Independent which comes with a free DVD of the original Frost v Nixon interview. This coincides with the release of the Ron Howard film ‘Frost/Nixon’ which is due for general release on Friday. I managed to catch it when in the US recently and it really is superb - a Politics class night out to the cinema?
Also in today’s paper, with Bush’s departure and Obama’s inauguration just days away, is the start of a seven part series on the lives of the presidents. Another reason to go out and get a copy. If you want to access the info online, the web link is here.
One might be inclined to think that after one of the most exciting elections in living memory, which ended with an historic outcome, that electoral reform campaigners in the USA would have lost heart.
Not so. Check out the Presidential Elections Reform Program of the FairVote website, which carries a host of useful stuff on reform of the primaries and the electoral college—the latter is particularly helpful if you are trying to dress up what can be quite a dry topic.
I have been doing some legwork for a forthcoming article for first past the post on campaign finance in the USA. Browsing the Open Secrets site I have been fascinated by their feature on the revolving door.
As the site states:
"Although the influence powerhouses that line Washington's K Street are just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol building, the most direct path between the two doesn't necessarily involve public transportation. Instead, it's through a door—a revolving door that shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into government careers. While members of the executive branch, Congress and senior congressional staffers spin in and out of the private and public sectors, so too does privilege, power, access and, of course, money."
On the site you can track movement between congressional and executive offices and lobbying firms. The scale and degree of activity is quite staggering.
This is an excellent site for consolidating knowledge on this much discussed, but often misunderstood phenomenon. Note for instance, that lobby firms seek to attract those with agency/executive experience as well as congressional staffers, not just ex-congressmen.>
I wonder if you have been watching this TV miniseries on Channel 4. The next show is on Saturday 10 January at 5.15 pm.
It really is quite excellent and essential viewing for students of American Politicsread more...»
If you happen to be looking for suitable pictures to pepper your school’s intranet page with, or, say, want to add a bit of humour to a class handout, then try the Ind’y selection of George W Bush images. This link takes you to one of my favourite moments of the Bush presidency; the so called Pretzel incident.
Student’s caveat emptor
It’s fair to say that the British, and Europeans in general, can be somewhat smug when viewing goings on in the USA. On the one hand we want them to do the right thing: scrap the death penalty, tighten gun laws, etc. But on the other hand we like to sneer at their ability to get it wrong: proving what a barbaric and mixed up place it is. This is partly since it makes us feel superior. But it’s also because Americans seem overly proud of their country and their political system - viewing it as an extension of the democratic process that began with the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, and the War of Independence, yet seeming to ignore that a raft of other countries in the world have made significant political advances since the birth of their nation. This explains how we can be simultaneously proud that they have elected Obama, but can also be incredulous that they elected Bush - not just once, but twice.
Anyway, reservations aired. They are funny pictures of a man that remains, to me at least, something of an enigma.
Further to an earlier posting by a fellow blogger about Bush’s legacy, I would draw your attention to a rather good article from US News.
It starts by noting how introspective the 43rd president has become in the fag end days of his time in office:
‘He finally admits that his low standing in the polls does bother him. “Everybody wants to be liked,” the normally thick-skinned president told a December 1 forum on global health. He concedes that many voters backed Democrat Barack Obama on Election Day as a protest against the Bush years. He admits to frustration with his big setbacks, especially the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was one of his main reasons for going to war there. Similarly, he is disappointed by the failure of Congress to pass his measures to overhaul immigration and Social Security, and he is distressed by the soaring level of federal spending and the continuing partisan warfare in Washington.’
Read further here and consider the following exercises:
Outline what Bush himself is said to be proud of.
What does the article view as Bush’s positive legacies.
Summarise comment on each of the following headings:
The ‘war on terror’
The war in Iraq
The financial meltdown
The elevation of Dick Cheney
As chance would have it, all my A level groups are doing a mock today and our weekly Friday focus sessions will not take place. But I thought I’d share a couple of articles that would make excellent discussion pieces on two of the most popular Politics topics.
First up is an excellent feature on the impact Peter Mandelson has had on Gordon Brown’s premiership. Students will be familiar about the debate on PM power and that it is more or less common knowledge that the PM is more intimate with some Ministers than others. Scholars have variously referred to this phenomenon as a kitchen Cabinet, or spheres of influence. The article in today’s Independent suggests that Peter Mandelson has penetrated Gordon Brown’s inner circle and he carries as much weight as either Alistair Darling or Ed Balls. Interesting
Over in the Economist there is great piece on Barack Obama and race relations. Racial inequality and the debate over measures used to try to overcome it always stimulate student interest. The key thing is to develop an intelligent appreciation of arguments on both sides. I think this article will help students in this respect.
To help key students keep up to date with current affairs (and be successful in tutor2u’s Question Time!), the BBC website hosts a whole range of clips from its political programming.
Here for instance is a short clip from the programme that can be used in lessons on political parties. Personally I think its important that I keep persevering with this topic even though my students have told me today (yet again) that they are unlikely to answer a question on it in the exam. This is one of the most exciting times in years to be studying politics given the current economic backdrop.
See the clip here
There was an excellent documentary at the weekend on the possibly declining influence of the religious right. You can access for the next 29 days on Channel 4’s catch up site
I can’t find any way to download it permanently, so if there are any technophiles out there who know how…!
I have also included the first part here from YouTuberead more...»
It may have escaped your attention that Saturday was not only the 45th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, but also the 18th anniversary resignation of Mrs Thatcher as PM.
Perhaps an opportune time to consider the importance of each historic figure.
There is almost unlimited information out there on the web on both, but my contribution is the link to a clip of Oliver Stone’s film on JFK’s shooting. I think it is some of the best politics on film.read more...»
I’ve just come across a series of up-to-date resources by the Parliamentary Education Service. These clear and simple to understand guides could be uploaded as pdf files onto a school VLE or intranet site. They cover areas of British politics that sometimes as teachers we assume students know, including answers to such questions as: what is a constituency?; what happens if two candidates have the same number of votes in an election? (both of which cropped up in my lessons this week).
I bet these three words had readers salivating at the prospect of what was to come. Probably not. I once made the mistake of admitting that I liked electoral systems as a topic. My colleague showed no mercy.
Anyway, on my travels through electoral reform websites I have come across some computer generated graphical explanations. Useful teaching aids.
It is unlikely that news that Rahm Emanuel has been chosen as Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff has escaped the attention of blog readers.read more...»
How many presidents were over 6ft tall? Which have had their faces on bank notes?
Find out via this jpg file, which would make a handy wall display:
I can’t seem to find the victory speech by Obama in Grant Park in full on YouTube, but this is the link to the BBC version:
A quick heads up for students and teachers. This weekend watch out for a US elections 2008 poster in the Independent on Sunday. If recent graphics in the sister paper are anything to go by, the elections outcome map may contain a few statistical errors, but at least they are promising a picture portrait of the president elect on the other side.
The Independent today contains a feast of politics for students and teachers.
First off is their Great American Quiz The same links takes you to the answers. Teachers should be able to plunder this for many end of terms to come!
Some entertaining presidential trivia here
Away from the US elections, here’s a good feature for UK issues coverage on the allegedly increasingly fluid nature of social mobility in the UK in the Big Question
What better than to have a genuine Barack Obama Action Man figure on your desk or to display in the staff room. We’ve got one of the last Barack Obama action figures left in NYC as the prize for this quick Politics Teacher Quiz…read more...»
Saturday More 4 at 7.05pm The story of Barack Obama and John McCain
As America prepares to go to the polls this Tuesday in what many consider to one of the most historical presidential elections in decades, Jon Snow narrates The Choice , a one-off documentary special which presents the story of Barack Obama and John McCain, and asks what do these two very unlikely presidential contenders say about the state of America at this crux moment in time?
Then at 11:20 pm on the same channel, Dispatches: Jon Snow’s American Journey
As Obama and McCain’s gladiatorial showdown enters its final week, Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow goes in search of the new America. Starting at the border with Mexico, Snow takes a road trip up the Pacific highway linking San Diego to Seattle, travelling though areas of great affluence, deprivation, innovation and tradition to find out about the new Americans, new economy and new directions that are shaping the next America.
On Channel 4 at 9.05 pm: Recount
Austin Powers director Jay Roach investigates the Florida voting scandal of 2000. Made-for-TV drama starring Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Laura Dern and Tom Wilkinson
I’m about to start teaching electoral systems after half term and a bit of research has uncovered this excellent pdf document from the Electoral Reform Society. With a preface by Vernon Bogdanor it is an excellent teaching tool. Find it here. The ERS website, by the way, has been much updated and is well worth a look.
On the same day that Americans go to the polls blog readers would be well advised to get themselves down to the LSE for a round table discussion on Northern Ireland as part of the universities public lecture series.
Ideal for anyone covering the UK issues route with Edexcel or students interested in the story of a unique political problem and its peaceful resolution.
From the LSE website:
Date: Tuesday 4 November 2008
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building
Speakers: Professor Richard English, Jonathan Powell
Chair: Professor Michael Cox
How did the Northern Ireland peace process come about and what lessons - if any - does Northern Ireland hold for other disturbed regions of the world today?
Professor Richard English is professor of politics, director of research and chair of the Irish Studies International Research Initiative at Queens University Belfast. Jonathan Powell was chief of staff to prime minister Tony Blair.
This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7955 6043.
If you are planning to attend this event and would like details on how to get here and what time to arrive, please refer to Coming to an event at LSE
As I write this it is 4 days and 17 hours until polling opens. This is just enough time for readers new to American Politics to get their head round the way US voters elect their President.read more...»
If only some UK political interviews could be finished in a swift, no-nonsense way like this…read more...»
The new edition of our popular ExamBuster Revision Guide for Edexcel AS Politics (new specification) has just been published.read more...»
Looking for a quick starter activity? Try this crossword on the 2008 US Presidential Election.
During one of our Media Monday sessions this week we discussed the appointment of Peter Mandelson to the Lordsread more...»
Many thanks to Andy Lawrence for the latest series of questions in our weekly politics quiz - Question Time
The first edition of First Past The Post for the 2008/9 academic year has just been published…read more...»
I have written an article for first past the post on the factors which may determine the outcome of the presidential election, and it should be out shortly. Meanwhile I would draw your attention to details of an article which popped up in my email inbox this morning from the New York Times. It covers news that the economy has had a huge impact on the contest. It starts:
“The turmoil on Wall Street and the weakening economy are changing the contours of the presidential campaign map, giving new force to Senator Barack Obama’s ambitious strategy to make incursions into Republican territory, while leading Senator John McCain to scale back his efforts to capture Democratic states.”
The article also contains some great links to multimedia maps: a useful teaching resource if you are covering voting behaviour.
Read the rest here
Many thanks to Andy Lawrence for producing this quick quiz on today’s Cabinet reshuffle…
What the papers said about the first contest between McCain and Obamaread more...»
As Obama’s campaign went negative this week, the McCain camp continued to dominate the news cycle with a quick response to the news about economic meltdownread more...»
Students, as we all know, are busy people. Here, this posting brings you a couple of the best articles in the UK press in recent daysread more...»
Sunday 9.00 pm BBC4 is showing ‘How to Be a Good President: Time Shift’. The blurb from their website states:
‘In a whistle-stop tour through the history of the US presidency, journalist and author Jonathan Freedland asks what qualities make a great president and what we can learn from the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, JFK or even Richard Nixon about what it takes to make a mark in the White House.
Freedland is helped by distinguished contributors including James Naughtie, Shirley Williams, Douglas Hurd, Simon Hoggart and Bonnie Greer, who give frank assessments of some of America’s greatest presidents.’
A hat tip to Jack Barnes on this one.
A clip from the BBC of Nixon campaigning in 1972
In a previous posting I have written about how important it is for students to develop habits that will pay long term dividends in terms of extending their knowledge and understanding of British politics. I have double periods scheduled with my Upper Sixths every Friday and they offer the ideal opportunity to include sessions similar to the ‘Media Monday’ ones I do with my Lower Sixth groups - ideally with a bit of YouTube thrown inread more...»
Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with the ‘Media Monday’ sessions I conduct with my AS groups. Supplementing class work with wider reading is a key component of planning for success in Politicsread more...»
With wall to wall coverage of the party conventions, the Politics blog may not need to bring you news of the latest on the US elections.
In case you missed it, John McCain chose Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin as his running mate. See the New York Times report here.
And Barack Obama’s acceptance speech appears to have gone down well.
But I thought I’d bring your attention to some quality on the significance of the Obama nomination, each penned by historians.
The latest state to be featured in the series running in The Economist on swing states 2008 is Missouri. Partly for my future reference, I have created hyperlinks to all printer friendly editions of articles on states covered so far on my subject site on the school intranet. I thought it might also be useful to post them here. I find them fascinating since they provide so much rich detail not simply on the politics of the states but also the economy, culture, demography, and – sometimes – the religious characteristics of each state.
Neil McNaughton’s superb presentation on Three Political Truisms can now be downloaded here…read more...»
Preparing for the new term I came across this decent bit of material for and against reform of the House of Lords. There’s probably enough here for an AS answer. It’s part of a campaign which is a spin off of the Charter 88 people: unlock democracy
The BBC’s Washington correspondent has, he says, just returned from his extended summer break. Coincidentally I have just finished reading his book Only in America. In his online diary he turns his attention to the importance of that A level American Politics staple, the vice presidency.
This post considers Frei’s book and highlights his take on the veep’s office
I have been banging the drum of the Independent’s Big Question series for some time. The most recent column examines state executions in the USA. Interesting juxtaposition when a lot of attention is focused on the issue of human rghts in China. See it here
It’s that time of year when I think about ordering books for the new term, and I thought I’d share with readers details of a couple of American publications on US Politics.read more...»
What insight does the Barry George case give us into the workings of the UK court system, and how can it be integrated into an answer on the judiciary?read more...»
After discussion with my teaching colleagues I came to the conclusion that stories of straight bananas juxtaposed with details of food mountains was a great way to get started on teaching the EU topic. So it was with a heavy heart that I read this story in the Sunday Times about EU plans to relax rules on what vegetables look like.read more...»
Great article on the mindset of Labour backbenchers and the importance they attach to reform of the upper houseread more...»
I discussed yesterday in my blog post that David Cameron seems to have the upper hand over Gordon Brown when it comes to who looks better placed to provide solutions to the nation’s problems, and that the knife crime debate could be used as the prism through which we could view this battle. Here I suggest that traditional politics is too narrow in outlook and that other areas, such as the latest thinking in economics (gulp!) may provide more fertile groundread more...»
Another plan for Lords reform has been published. But yet again there appears to be little political will behind the idearead more...»
It was hard to avoid thinking about the politics of knife crime when I was out and about in London yesterdayread more...»
A damning indictment on the English education system by a respected think tank. But it is not all doom and gloomread more...»
I have come across another very useful video on Brown’s year.read more...»
Please take a couple of minutes to complete this online survey and give us your suggestions for what you would like to see included in the 2008/9 editions of Lobby Magazine - the free print magazine for Politics, Sociology and Law…read more...»
An in-depth look at Gordon Brown’s first year in officeread more...»
I have made a couple of additions to my Oxbridge reading listread more...»
Another video from the barely political gangread more...»
We’re delighted to announce the publication of Lobby Magazine - the new, free print magazine for teachers of Politics, Law & Sociology. Order your free copy today - and tell your colleagues about Lobby too!read more...»
A few examples of definitions in the people and participation area worked on during study leaveread more...»