Teaching about the U.S. Constitution
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Teaching about the U.S. Constitution

Tom Vontz: Hello, and welcome to Kansas State
University’s courses on the Constitution. My name is Tom Vontz, and I’m associate
professor and director of the Center for Social Studies Education here at Kansas State University.
We’ve developed a series of six, one-hour courses that focus on teaching and learning
about the United States Constitution. My teaching partner is:
Robert Leming: Hi I’m Robert Leming. I’m the National Director for the “We the People”
program at the Center for Civic Education. Tom Vontz: We, Bob and I, have both done professional
development and workshops for thousands of teachers across the United States, and as
we have gained experience in providing professional development, we saw a need for these courses
and for their development, especially in an online environment.
Robert Leming: That’s right Tom. We’re able to meet face-to-face with hundreds, maybe
even thousands of teachers. But what we’ve realized is that to even reach a broader audience,
online courses are the way to go. And the thing we want to make sure we accomplish is
the fact that the content-driven courses that we do live, if you will, in workshops and
lectures and so forth – we want to make sure that this happens with these online courses
– that they are rigorous, that they are filled with content-specific to obviously the courses
we’re talking about – but then also interactive, and the bottom line fun, as well as intriguing
for the audiences. Tom Vontz: Bob will be teaching three of the
courses, courses number 1, 3, and 5, and I’ll be teaching three of the courses, course 2,
4, and 6. Two of these courses will be offered each month beginning in January of 2010. We
did want to say by way of introduction to all these classes, just a word or two about
our philosophy going into these classes, so you can get to know us a little bit better.
Bob and I both come from a philosophy that ideas matter, and political ideas matter a
great deal. Over the course of history both in the United States and in the world, ideas
have been used to enslave and segregate and discriminate, and ideas have also been used
to liberate and connect. Robert Leming: One point I would like to add
to that Tom, is that the importance of the fact that educators will be involved in these
online courses. I like to say that kids are victims to what teachers don’t know, and
therefore its vital, it seems to me, that the better prepared you are as a teacher the
more your students then will perform in class, obviously, and then as they become citizens
they’ll know more, and be able to participate. The bottom line here is that we’re trying
to impact educators to understand these principles that Tom has laid out and then apply them
in our democracy today. Certainly the historical foundations are important, but ultimately
we live now and therefore, how we are going to deal with our issues that are facing this
country, and that I think is only done by enlightened, responsible citizens.
Tom Vontz: We hope that at the end of these courses that you’re able to develop your
own framework of powerful, important ideas that can help you explore in a deeper way,
your political landscape. Bob Leming: You know Tom, you know as well
as I do that the founders believed that if you’re going to live in a democratic republic,
that citizens must have a knowledge of the constitution and the Bill of Rights and how
the systems of the government work and then their active role in that as participants
in a democracy. It’s impossible without those ideas and understanding of how government
works. Therefore again, I would emphasize the fact that we hope these online courses
empower people to participate eventually in their government, whether they’re voting,
or whether they’re running for office, or just sitting around a campfire or the fireplace
discussing political ideas before and after election times.
Tom Vontz: Fantastic. These six online courses correspond to the Center for Civic Education’s
“We the People” program and also the National Standards for Civics in Government. These
are in many ways familiar ideas, but we hope that we’ll be looking at those familiar
ideas, asking you to consider these familiar ideas in new ways and from different prospective
– in ways that will help you really become a better teacher of the foundational ideas
of our government. These courses have the following titles: Course number one, which
is taught by Professor Leming, is called “Teaching About the Theoretical Foundations of Government.”
Course number two, which I’ll be teaching is called “Teaching About the Historical
Origins of Government in the United States.” Course number three, taught by Professor Leming,
is “Teaching About the Development of Constitutional Principles.” Course number four, which I’ll
be teaching, is titled “Teaching About the Institutions of Government.” Course number
five, again taught by Professor Leming, is titled “Teaching About the Bill of Rights.”
And the final course that I’ll be teaching is a course called “Teaching About Citizenship
in the United States.” So we’ll notice that if you take all six classes, that you’ll
really be exposed to the origins of ideas, important ideas, how they’ve developed over
time, and then ultimately why they remain important in our country and in our society
today. We hope that you enjoy this particular class that you’re taking now and that you’ll
decide to take other classes in the future.

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