Social Studies

Political Junkies

By Michelle R. Davis — September 29, 2006 1 min read

To Andrew Conneen and Daniel Larsen, election season is a chance to live what they teach. This year, the government and politics teachers at Adlai E. Stevenson High School near Chicago have organized a homecoming parade featuring politicians; a televised, student-moderated debate between congressional candidates; and an election-night broadcast on the school’s radio station.

Daniel Larsen (right), shaking hands with Congressman Mark Kirk after the politician's school visit, teaches students to participate in Democracy.

They say it’s a natural extension of their lessons. “It’s what we try to do every day—to say these concepts [students] read about in their textbooks are real,” Conneen explains. “American government is the only class that’s going to arrive on your doorstep every day in the form of your newspaper.”

And thanks to the bonds they’ve made with politicians, some of that government has come to the doorstep of their classrooms. In late August, for example, their congressman, U.S. Representative Mark Kirk, dropped in with 10 officials from the new Afghan government. The visitors fielded student questions on the Taliban, women’s rights, and the creation of a democracy.

See Also

See a related elections story,

Hearts and Minds

All this political involvement has rubbed off on students—each election season, the county clerk trains Conneen and Larson’s pupils as election judges and voter registrars. The latter have been particularly effective, signing up more than 3,000 student voters to date. The teachers also arrange for kids to help out with campaigns, and protégés have gone on to work for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and current House Speaker Dennis Hastert, among others. “I was already interested in politics, but I was surprised that [their] classes deepened a passion I didn’t think was going to get any deeper,” says former student Talia Stein, who is now interning in Pennsylvania for Democrat Bob Casey’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Teaching, say Conneen and Larsen, is a way to safeguard democracy. Students “have to learn how to make this machine work,” Larsen says. “The stakes are too high if they don’t.”

Related Tags:

To read Conneen and Larsen’s blog about current events, go to:
A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as Political Junkies


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Social Studies Insurgency at the U.S. Capitol: A Dreaded, Real-Life Lesson Facing Teachers
Classroom teachers have the difficult task this week of helping their students make sense of what happened at the Capitol.
9 min read
Police hold back Trump supporters who tried to break through a police barrier on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
Police hold back pro-Trump rioters who tried to break through a police barrier Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.
Julio Cortez/AP
Social Studies Teachers of Color More Likely Than White Peers to Tackle 'Controversial' Civics Topics
They were also more likely to emphasize teaching the Bill of Rights and the responsibilities of citizenship, a recent survey found.

7 min read
Irene Sanchez, an educator in the Azusa Unified school district, stands outside her home in Riverside, Calif.
Irene Sanchez, an educator in the Azusa Unified school district, stands outside her home in Riverside, Calif.
Morgan Lieberman for Education Week
Social Studies Disinformation Is Rampant. Here's How Teachers Are Combatting It
Online spread of false information—like the recent claims of voter fraud—poses ongoing challenges for civics teachers.
9 min read
President Donald Trump waves to supporters from his motorcade Nov. 14 in Washington.
President Donald Trump waves to supporters from his motorcade Nov. 14 in Washington.
Julio Cortez/AP
Social Studies Opinion We Americans Risk Losing the Ability to Govern Ourselves. Better Civics Education Can Help
The ability to discern fact from fiction and to recognize reliable news is fundamental, writes News Literacy Project's Charles Salter.
Charles Salter
4 min read
Messed up puzzle pieces of an American flag on a dark blue background
iStock/Getty Images Plus