COMMUNICATOR UPDATE: March 2003
Welcome to The Dirksen Congressional Center's "Communicator" - a
web-based e-newsletter providing educators with news and ideas to
enhance civic education and improve the understanding of Congress --
NEWS FROM THE DIRKSEN CENTER
<<< Congratulations! >>>
The Dirksen Center congratulates the 2003 Congressional Research Awards
recipients for receiving grants to study such topics as congressional
intervention in defense budgeting, congressional oversight of the
executive branch, and campaigns for the U.S. House. In addition,
historians will explore the culture of violence in Congress in the
antebellum years and the influence of incumbents in selecting
congressional candidates at the turn of the 20th century.
Recipients this year include Ph.D. candidates and faculty from the
University of California at Berkeley, the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, North Carolina State University, Yale University, the
University of Iowa, and Michigan State University, among others.
The Dirksen Center will distribute $35,862 in Congressional Research
Awards to eleven projects in 2003. Since 1978, The Center has awarded
over $585,000 to more than 315 research projects.
A complete list of this year's Congressional Research Award recipients
is posted at http://www.dirksencenter.org/grantcongresearchaward.htm
<<< Family Site of the Day >>>
World Village has cited Congress for Kids as the "Family Site of the
Day" -- http://www.worldvillage.com/sitereviews/family.html?id=2059
<<< THE ORGANIZATION OF CONGRESS >>>
The Reapportionment Act of 1929 fixed the number of members of Congress
and recognized that adding more seats to the House as the population
grew would make it unwieldy. Resources posted on The Dirksen Center's
Web suite - http://www.dirksencongressionalcenter.org
- will help your
students learn more about the organization and leadership of Congress.
Every ten years, after each federal census, adjustments are made in the
number of congressional districts - a process known as redistricting and
reapportionment. Our CongressLink featured lesson plan will teach
students about a census, help them understand the constitutional basis
for it, learn how the census relates to congressional reapportionment
process, and will help them understand and evaluate Democratic and
Republican census proposals. Find "The U.S. Census: Enumeration and
Representation" at: http://www.congresslink.org/lessonplans/census.html
State legislatures usually draw congressional district lines, but
federal courts sometimes draw districts when the original plans lose a
constitutional challenge. The majority party, to maximize the chances
for its candidates to win elections, often draws the boundaries.
Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts approved a bill in 1812
creating such an oddly shaped district that his critics called it a
"gerrymander." Learn more about gerrymandering and how it relates to the
reapportionment and redistricting of congressional seats by completing
the printable worksheet posted on Congress for Kids. Find "Congressional
Districts: 108th Congress" at:
Members of Congress represent their constituents in different ways once
elected to office. Some see themselves as delegates, obligated to vote
the way the majority of the people in their districts want. Others
consider themselves trustees, taking the views of their constituents
into account but using their own best judgment or their conscience to
vote. How do members of Congress make decisions about the votes they
cast? To answer this question, CongressLink presents an interactive
exercise using vectors that illustrates the process of congressional
decisions. Find the PowerPoint presentation, "Understanding
Congressional Decisions Through Vectors" at:
In elections, members of Congress have a clear advantage over
challengers who want to unseat them. Do your students know why sitting
members of Congress are almost always re-elected? Have them visit our
AboutGovernment hot link of the month to learn why. Find "Why Are
Sitting Members of Congress Almost Always Re-Elected?" at:
The composition and powers of Congress and the qualifications necessary
for election are set forth by Article I of the U.S. Constitution --
Yet there is no legal or
constitutional job description for a member. Each one defines their
individual duties and priorities. Find "What Members of Congress Do"
Newly elected members of the House of Representatives meet at the
beginning of each two-year congressional term to organize and select
their leaders. Members of both parties hold organizational meetings
where they elect their own leadership, adopt internal rules for how
their party will operate, and draft their version of the institutional
rules for the House. Find "Congressional Leadership Information" at:
Teachers, you may want
to show your students what challenges congressional leaders face by
using the CongressLink lesson plan, "Making Congress Work Through
Leadership." Find this lesson at:
Our featured project this month is a $5,500 Michel Civic Education Grant
awarded to Susan Potter on behalf of the Washington State Historical
Society, the Olympia School District, and the Washington State
Redistricting Commission. Susan's project, "Redistricting and
Reapportionment: Curriculum Guide and Apportionment Game" is designed to
teach legislative and congressional redistricting and reapportionment to
students in grades 4 - 12 by developing a curriculum guide, a board
game, a Web site featuring a virtual game, and a video that addresses
the complex issues of redistricting and reapportionment. Learn more
about this project and others at:
Do you have a project? Submit a grant proposal! For more information
about how to submit a Robert H. Michel Civic Education Grants proposal,
please visit: http://www.dirksencenter.org/grantmichelciviced.htm
proposals for our next round of competition must be received by May 1,
2003. If you have questions about the Robert H. Michel Civic Education
Grants, contact Frank Mackaman at mailto:fmackaman@...
<<< Learning Legislation Lingo >>>
1. The U.S. states of the Southwest and West have gained
representatives, and those of the Northeast and Midwest lost them,
through the process called _____ that followed the last few federal
2. True or False: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states may not
place a legal limit on how many terms their elected congressional
representatives may serve.
3. Gov. Elbridge Gerry signed into law an 1812 elections bill that
included a salamander-shaped congressional district sure to elect
Republicans to office. As a result, strategically designed election
districts are now called _____s, and the act of drawing such districts
is called _____ing.
4. A representative who considers it his or her job to express the
district will of voters back home is often called a _____, whereas one
who emphasizes his or her own best judgment is often called a _____.
Answers to February's issue of "Fun, Facts, and Trivia" link here:
That's it for March! Spring is almost here! Encourage your colleagues to
subscribe to the Communicator. If you have questions, comments, or
suggestions, contact Cindy Koeppel at mailto:ckoeppel@...
Your feedback makes a difference!
NOTICE REGARDING E-MAIL ADDRESSES: Communicator's mailing list has over
10,000 names and is still growing. Please follow the instructions below
to help us with list editing:
TO CHANGE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS: If your old address will become inactive,
unsubscribe using your old address, and follow the instructions below.
Your e-mail address will be deleted from our mailing list.
TO SUBSCRIBE to the Communicator, please follow these instructions: Send
an e-mail to mailto:ckoeppel@...
with the phrase -
"subscribe Communicator" - in the body of the message. Your e-mail
address will be added to our mailing list.
TO UNSUBSCRIBE from the Communicator, please follow these instructions:
Send an e-mail to mailto:ckoeppel@...
with the phrase
-"unsubscribe Communicator" -- in the body of the message. Your e-mail
address will be deleted from our mailing list.
If you experience any problem, send an e-mail to Cindy Koeppel at