In my first few years of teaching, I taught with a U.S. History teacher who believed every law was passed simply because Congress saw it as what should be. He gave no credit to the social movements that encouraged the legislation, and saw no value in teaching about "social issues" in his classes. I was appalled! And as a Social Historian myself, I saw every piece of legislation as the result of social action.
Could we both have been right? Or were we both wrong?Now that I am much older, and somewhat wiser, I do see that the creation and passing of legislation has to be both political and social. Our founding fathers had it right when they decided there should be elected officials that could distinguish between emotional appeal and a true need for change.
Still, in our modern times, we see legislation passed that is often misunderstood. It does not seem to adhere to the demands of the populous, and often seems in direct conflict with the wants and needs of the people. Why is this so?
And then the more important question:
How can we help our students understand this conundrum in our American legislative system?
We can't! But what we can teach them is the lesson we all learn as we grow older. Our government is not always serving in our best interest, often because it is seeking to serve in the best interest of others at the time. And that's truly the way the founding fathers wanted it to be. And whether legislation is passed through political measures or at the hands of a social movement, it is still a document worthy of investigation for all. Through the evaluation of our American documents, we can all become better citizens, and in the end, that legislation will be our foundation.
Do you need quality resources for your classroom? Take a look at my latest Document Analysis Series on TpT! They will help you save time while providing your students the tools they need for learning and practicing the analysis process.
And be sure to introduce your students to Our Documents, an incredible website where they can see the actual documents and read the transcripts to better evaluate our American government.