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Illustrating the Legislative Process

August 19, 2010
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

August 8, 2010
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 Too often, teachers in struggling school districts are stuck with outdated and worn textbooks. Why do we continue to use these increasingly outdated teaching methods?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

July 27, 2010
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

July 8, 2010
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

June 24, 2010
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.

Justice O’Connor’s iCivics and Harlan Institute Announce New Partnership

June 23, 2010
June 23, 2010 – Washington, D.C.  The Harlan Institute announced a new partnership today with iCivics Inc., the nonprofit civic education program founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The two organizations will integrate Argument Wars, a game developed by iCivics, and FantasySCOTUS, the Supreme Court fantasy league from the Harlan Institute, to teach students about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. This partnership will build on the great success of Justice O’Connor’s vision to use digital media to teach students about government and civics, and the surging popularity of FantasySCOTUS, which CNN called the “hottest new fantasy-league game.” Argument Wars presents students with famous Supreme Court cases and challenges them to critically examine arguments and exercise sound reasoning in order to win. FantasySCOTUS is a fun and interactive fantasy league that allows students to make predictions about cases pending before the Supreme Court, compete and collaborate with other classes across the country, and write analytical blog posts about the cases. iCivics and the Harlan Institute will be linking Argument Wars and FantasySCOTUS to immerse students in cases pending before the Supreme Court. Students will use Argument Wars to understand the facts and competing arguments in cases. Following this introduction, students will utilize FantasySCOTUS to make predictions, blog, and record podcasts about the cases. After the Supreme Court decides the cases, points will be awarded based on the accuracy of their predictions, and students will be able to compete with other classes nationwide. “Through our partnership with Justice O’Connor and iCivics, we will be able to offer students nationwide a fun and interactive way to learn about the law,” commented Josh Blackman, President and Co-Founder of the Harlan Institute. “Students will learn about cases pending before the Supreme Court with the same passion and excitement they have for video games and fantasy sports. It’s a recipe for educational success.” These programs will be free for all teachers and students to use and will be available in August of 2010. About iCivics iCivics (www.iCivics.org) is a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. iCivics is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support.     About the Harlan Institute The Harlan Institute’s (www.HarlanInstitute.org) mission is to bring a stylized law school experience into the high school classroom to ensure that our next generation of leaders has a proper understanding of our most fundamental laws. The Harlan Institute developed FantasySCOTUS.org, a Supreme Court fantasy league that teaches students about Supreme Court cases and allows them to make predictions about the outcome of the case. ### Contacts:
Josh Blackman (202) 294-9003 The Harlan Institute info@harlaninstitute.org twitter: @HarlanInstitutehttp://HarlanInstitute.org Jeff Curley (202) 661-6527 iCivics Inc. jeff.curley@icivics.org www.icivics.org

A Self-Appointed Teacher Runs a One-Man ‘Academy’ on YouTube

June 8, 2010
The Harlan Institute is always looking for ways to use the Internet to educate and teach students in new and innovative ways. Salmann Khan, who runs a one-man “academy” on YouTube has proved to be a virtuoso of online education. Check out this article from the Chronicle of High Education.
The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet. This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system. “My single biggest goal is to try to deliver things the way I wish they were delivered to me,” he told me recently. The resulting videos don’t look or feel like typical college lectures or any of the lecture videos that traditional colleges put on their Web sites or YouTube channels. For one thing, these lectures are short—about 10 minutes each. And they’re low-tech: Viewers see only the scrawls of equations or bad drawings that Mr. Khan writes on his digital sketchpad software as he narrates. The lo-fi videos seem to work for students, many of whom have written glowing testimonials or even donated a few bucks via a PayPal link. The free videos have drawn hundreds of thousands of views, making them more popular than the lectures by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famous for making course materials free, or any other traditional institution online, according to the leaders of YouTube’s education section. Mr. Khan calls his collection of videos “Khan Academy,” and he lists himself as founder and faculty. That means he teaches every subject, and he has produced 1,400 lectures since he started in 2006. Now he records one to five lectures per day.
What an amazing story!

Violent Video Games Touted As Learning Tool

June 1, 2010
Interesting article from the Huffington Post on the value of using video games–albeit violent ones– as learning tools.
“People that play these fast-paced games have better vision, better attention and better cognition,” said Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester. Bavelier was a presenter at Games for Learning, a daylong symposium on the educational uses of video games and computer games. The event, the first of its kind, was an indication that electronic games are gaining legitimacy in the classroom. President Barack Obama recently identified the creation of good educational software as one of the “grand challenges for American innovation,” and the federal Department of Education’s assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Innovation and Improvement, Jim Shelton, attended Thursday’s conference. Panelists discussed how people learn and how games can be engineered to be even more educational. “People do learn from games,” said J. Dexter Fletcher of the Institute for Defense Analyses. Sigmund Tobias of the State University of New York at Albany said an Israeli air force study found that students who played the game “Space Fortress” had better rankings in their pilot training than students who did not. He added that students who played “pro-social” games that promote cooperation were more likely than others to help out in real-life situations like intervening when someone is being harassed.

Poll: Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Name Any U.S. Supreme Court Justices

June 1, 2010
Very disturbing news about the state of our civic education in America.  Nearly two-thirds of Americans cannot name any members of the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a new national survey by FindLaw.com. From the poll:
Clarence Thomas is the most well known justice but could be named by only 19 percent of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts was named by 16 percent of people. Sonia Sotomayor, the newest justice, could be named by only 15 percent of Americans following a highly visible nomination and confirmation process last year. According to the FindLaw.com survey, the percentages of Americans who can name any U.S. Supreme Court justices are:
  • Clarence Thomas – 19%
  • John Roberts – 16%
  • Sonia Sotomayor – 15%
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 13%
  • Antonin Scalia – 10%
  • Samuel Alito – 8%
  • John Paul Stevens – 8%
  • Anthony Kennedy – 6%
  • Stephen Breyer – 3%
Only 1 percent of Americans could correctly name all nine current members of the Supreme Court. In addition, many Americans think that retired justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter are still active members of the Supreme Court. O’Connor and Souter retired from the Court in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
Curiously, the most taciturn Justice is the most well known. And Justice Kennedy, the most important  Justice on the bench, is the least well known. Poor Justice Breyer.

Press Release- Launch of the New Harlan Institute Web Site

May 28, 2010
May 28, 2010 – Washington, D.C. Today the Harlan Institute launched its new web site at www.HarlanInstitute.org. The new web site offers an engaging and easy to use design. By using this site, teachers and students can learn more about the Harlan Institute’s initiatives, including FantasySCOTUS.org and YourConstitution.net. FantasySCOTUS.org will be a Supreme Court fantasy league targeted towards high school classes that teach about the Supreme Court, the constitution, and civics. In a partnership with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s iCivics, the site will be free for all teachers and students to use, starting in August 2010. YourConstitution.net will bring the constitution to life by shining a light on the faces and places that gave rise to famous Supreme Court cases, and telling their stories. This interactive website will take the reader through a visual tour of some of the most famous cases in constitutional law history. About the Harlan Institute The Harlan Institute’s (www.HarlanInstitute.org) mission is to bring a stylized law school experience into the high school classroom to ensure that our next generation of leaders has a proper understanding of our most fundamental laws. The Harlan Institute developed FantasySCOTUS.org, a Supreme Court fantasy league that teaches students about Supreme Court cases and allows them to make predictions about the outcome of the case. ### Contacts: Josh Blackman (202) 294-9003 The Harlan Institute info@harlaninstitute.org twitter: @HarlanInstitute http://HarlanInstitute.org