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Illustrating the Legislative Process

Mike Wirth, “designer, educator, and artist,” created a fantastic graphic illustrating the legislative process. The graphic is much more detailed than typical illustrations found in textbooks. This is a great resource for civics teachers. A section of the graphic is below, but click here for the full graphic.

The Future of Education is Online

Here at the Harlan Institute, we recognize the educational value of the Internet and the potential it has to provide teachers with low-cost, relevant, and effective alternatives to costly traditional programs and textbooks. According to a recent article from TechCruch, it seems Bill Gates shares our enthusiasm for the future of online education.

Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world,” Gates said at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA today. “It will be better than any single university,” he continued.

He believes that no matter how you came about your knowledge, you should get credit for it. Whether it’s an MIT degree or if you got everything you know from lectures on the web, there needs to be a way to highlight that.

He made sure to say that educational institutions are still vital for children, K-12. He spoke glowingly about charter schools, where kids can spend up to 80% of their time deeply engaged with learning.

But his overall point is that it’s just too expensive and too hard to get these upper-level educations. And soon place-based college educations will be five times less important than they are today.

The Internet is inherently egalitarian. With Internet access and a computer, teachers everywhere have access to the same educational resources and materials. Too often, teachers in struggling school districts are stuck with outdated and worn textbooks. Why do we continue to use these increasingly outdated teaching methods? Gates points out some of the weaknesses with these conventional, costly textbooks:

One particular problem with the education system according to Gates is text books. Even in grade schools, they can be 300 pages for a book about math. “They’re giant, intimidating books,” he said. “I look at them and think: what on Earth is in there?

According to Gates, our text books are three times longer than the equivalents in Asia. And yet they’re beating us in many ways with education. The problem is that these things are built by committee, and more things are simply added on top of what’s already in there.

Gates said that technology is the only way to bring education back under control and expand it.

Technology will significantly decrease the rising costs of education, while also providing students everywhere with the same learning opportunities. If state education boards, school districts, and teachers continue to incorporate online resources into the classroom curriculum, we can simultaneously beat the economic downturn and give our students the education they need to fully take advantage of life’s opportunities.

The Harlan Institute Adds Christopher Landau to our Board of Advisors

The Harlan Institute is excited to announce that Mr. Christopher Landau of Kirkland & Ellis LLP is the newest member of our Board of Advisors!

Mr. Landau is head of his firm’s Appellate Litigation Practice, based in the Washington office. He began his successful career as a law clerk at the United States Supreme Court, first to Justice Antonin Scalia (1990-91) and then to Justice Clarence Thomas (1991-92). In 2006, he won a significant arbitration case, Buckeye Check Cashing v. Cardegna, in the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Landau has been recognized and featured as a leading lawyer in a number of publications, including: Chambers USAThe National Law JournalThe American Lawyer; Washingtonian Magazine; and Chicago Lawyer. He has also commented on the Supreme Court on a variety of media outlets, including CNN, PBS, MSNBC, C-SPAN and radio.

The Harlan Institute is honored to have such an accomplished and talented attorney join our Board of Advisors. We look forward to Mr. Landau’s insight and advice, as well as his promotion of our educational service to the legal community.

Teachers at the Supreme Court, Reference to Harlan’s Partner iCivics

The AP recently reported on teachers vacationing at the Supreme Court this summer:

WASHINGTON — Adele Dalesandro stepped inside the U.S. Supreme Court wide-eyed. She spoke in whispers, trying to absorb everything about the room she had read so much about but had never seen.

Her first impression was that it was much smaller than she expected.

“This is not something you can replicate in the classroom,” said Dalesandro, who has taught high school government and politics classes in St. Charles, Ill., for 14 years.

The teacher had become a student again.

Dalesandro was part of a group of 30 social studies teachers from around the country who got a behind-the scenes look this week at the Supreme Court as part of the Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers. The six-day program that ended Tuesday covered subjects ranging from choosing the court’s docket to nominating a justice, an especially relevant topic this summer with the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

The article references Justice O’Connor’s iCivics, which recently entered a partnership with Harlan.

C-SPAN Poll- 80% of Young Adults Cannot Name Supreme Court Nominee, 70% Cannot Name a Single Supreme Court Case

Take a look at this C-SPAN poll which queried what people think about the Supreme Court. (H/T Above The Lawfor the screen shots of the poll).

Approximately 80% of 18-24 year olds cannot name the most recent nominee to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan.

Additionally, only 33% of 18-24 year olds could name a single case decided by the Supreme Court. Less than 1% can name Plessy v. Ferguson and Marbury v. Madison.

The results are quite depressing, and are a sad commentary on the knowledge of our young citizenry on the Supreme Court and the Constitution.

Among people 18-24, the results are appreciably worse. This shows me that students are not gaining the necessary education in High School and College.

All the more reason why our work at the Harlan Institute to teach students about the Supreme Court and the Constitution is vital.


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