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Civic Life Awareness for Students

Posted on January 15 2023

Civic Life Awareness for Students


Dear Educator,

Citizens of the United States and countries around the world watched as the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives—the Republican Party—suffered rarely seen difficulty agreeing on a leader, known as the Speaker of the House. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California finally won a majority of the votes that were cast, after failing to win the majority of votes 14 times previously. It took four days for the House to finally get down to the business of working on legislation, as they remained leaderless and thus unable to move forward. This event, and the role of the House in general, is the subject of this week’s GNN article. The event also reminded all of us here at Maps101 how important understanding civics is. And of course, this understanding begins in school as students learn about the U.S. government and the importance of voting—one of the key rights citizens have. So this week we are taking a look at how the government works, focusing on the House of Representatives, several perspectives on voting, and an example of the government working for the people.
Key to civic life is understanding our government. This Lesson Map is a complete lesson that covers all the fundamentals of our democracy, including the three branches of government, the houses of Congress, who makes up the executive branch and what their roles are, how a justice is chosen for the Supreme Court, and what the system of checks and balances is. The student edition provides an interactive tour through these topics. Subheadings allow for easy identification of the main ideas, while images and text provide the story. The teacher edition provides numerous leveled activities for each subheading, giving you ideas to engage your students.

The 118th Congress began after the start of the new year, except the House could not move forward without first electing its leader, the Speaker of the House. The Speaker is elected by the majority party in the House, and the Republican Party won that majority during the midterm elections. However, different ideologies and issues within the party meant the House was leaderless for four days. Finally, by the fifteenth vote, Senator McCarthy won the role of Speaker. Questions remain, though, about how powerful he will be at leading his party. This article helps students gain insight into this event as well the role the House plays in our government.


Citizens do not vote for the Speaker of the House. House members vote for their leadership. However, citizens do vote for members of Congress. Congressional seats are voted on during presidential elections, but they can also be voted on during midterm elections. A presidential term is four years. Voting takes place every two years because some seats in Congress become available. This article explains more about midterm elections and their role in determining the majority in Congress. Voting in midterm elections is extremely important given that Congress heads the legislative branch of government. The president does not make the laws of the country; Congress does. Thus, civic responsibility includes voting to ensure the issues that concern you most are addressed by the laws of the nation.


Unlike midterm elections, presidential elections make use of an electoral college to cast the ultimate votes for the president of the United States. This GNN article explains how the electoral college works. Even though the college functions as an intermediary, the members of that body are required to vote according to the peoples’ votes in his or her respective state. In other words, your vote DOES matter.


Today, all adult citizens in good standing have the right to vote. However, voting rights had to be assured to Black Americans, because as enslaved people, they did not have the right to vote. When slavery became illegal with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution, voting rights for those who formerly were enslaved became a question. Southern states in particular used local laws, called Jim Crow laws, to try to limit and control Black voting. It took the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s to create enough pressure for Black voting rights to be formally included in legislation. Have students read this GNN article to learn more about the struggle for voting rights and to help them appreciate why voting today is not something to be taken for granted.


Similarly, women did not have the right to vote at the founding of the nation. The women’s suffrage movement began in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York. Nearly 60 years later, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing women voting rights. Often though, women voted the same as did their spouses. And Black women were subject to Jim Crow laws, which limited their rights until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 addressed this issue for Black Americans.


Let’s turn our attention to a group with voting rights that are not as commonly discussed: Native Americans. There are specific challenges that create less representation in government for Native Americans. This article explains those challenges. Students will recognize the issues that prevail among the original inhabitants of the land that is now the United States by reading this article. After all, civics and government should relate to all members of a society, Native Americans, included.


Now that we have looked at voting rights from multiple perspectives, it is time to put it together. This article focuses on the era of the Great Depression to explain how President Roosevelt addressed the nation’s ills and how the concept of a minimum wage became the law. Through a historical lens, we can analyze the present. By voting, student help frame and shape the government. The president is an important figure, yes, but so are members of Congress. By understanding the challenges people have had, we can see the value in our rights and the responsibility we all have as citizens.


Thank you for taking this tour of content focused around civic life, that is available on Maps101. We hope our weekly tour of topics in this GeoJournal helps not just inform you of themes you can focus on throughout the year, but that it also draws your attention to content you may not have realized is available. Happy hunting for more content that benefits your class this school year. And don’t forget to favorite to save what you use often for easy access.

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