Austin ISD Social Studies Weekly

November 16-22

Learning Opportunities in Austin ISD

FTE Economics support for Teachers

A former Austin ISD Economics teacher who is currently a consultant for the Foundation for Teaching Economics (FTE) will offer a session for teachers regarding the use of experiential learning activities (especially for reaching ELL's in conjunction with ELPs and SIOP strategies). In order to have him come to Austin, I need Economics teachers to complete the Google Form below.

Learning Opportunities outside of AISD

Book Presentations by Austin authors at the Austin History Center

Upcoming Student Opportunties

Censored in America: The War on Free Speech Student Essay Contest

You can WIN A TRIP TO NEW YORK CITY when your students enter our 2015-2016

Censored in America: The War on Free Speech ESSAY CONTEST

125 CASH PRIZES for students, totaling $15,500!

Help your students earn great prizes by entering them in Stossel in the Classroom's 2015-2016 essay contest, for students aged 12-18! In addition to 125 prizes for students totaling $15,500, every teacher whose student(s) earn an honorable-mention award or better will receive an autographed copy of one of John Stossel's bestselling books!

Teachers may submit an unlimited number of student essays (500-1000 words in length) on our web site between now and the February 18, 2016, deadline. Simply have your students view John Stossel's "Censored in America" Fox News hour (view the streaming video here; you must be logged in), and write an essay to submit to our contest. The essay topic is listed below.


Is Free Speech becoming more limited in America? John Stossel considers that in his recent Fox News hour, "Censored in America." Words can wound, so should we have increased limits around free speech? Why or why not? Does free speech have a special role in a free society?

"Censored in America" says that students are sometimes kept away from words and ideas they might find disturbing. What do you think? Are there areas in society today where we should allow more free speech? Are there areas where we should restrict free speech?

Please write a 500-1000 word essay on this topic. You should include your own examples of free speech controversies, and you must include at least one reference to the TV special or Stossel's book, "No They Can't."

We are offering your students 125 CASH PRIZES totaling $15,500! First and second place winners will also receive an all-expense-paid trip to New York City for themselves, an adult chaperone each, and the teachers who submitted their essays, to meet John Stossel and to see a live taping of STOSSEL. Click this link for complete rules and submission information.

Visit our 2015 Essay Winners Page for lists of last year's winners or to read the top essays.

Recommended Online Resources

GOVT: Gerrymandering lesson from C-SPAN

C-SPAN Classroom Deliberations, a site produced by C-SPAN's Senior Fellows, Brian Rock and Randy Bilyeu, has been updated with a new and in-depth lesson to help your students deliberate the issue of redistricting.

In 2015, the Supreme Court decided in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Redistricting Commission that the voters of a state could use the initiative process to take the power to draw election maps out of the hands of the Legislature and give it to an independent commission. This was the latest battle waged over an issue that is as old as our Republic – gerrymandering.

In 1812, the Governor of Massachusetts signed legislation that created a new set of boundaries for state legislative and Congressional districts. Some of these districts were oddly shaped, and the resulting map favored the Governor’s Republican Party in the following elections. So began the process of distorting election maps for political gain.

The first part of our new deliberation focuses on the fundamentals of this process – what is gerrymandering and how it is done. Through Part 1, you’ll learn what you need to address the first question: Should state legislatures be allowed to draw congressional district boundaries in such a way that the majority party in the state may gain an advantage?

Over the last twenty years, a new development has changed the debate around gerrymandering. If you accept that the mapmaking process is political, the best solution may be to take it out of the hands of politicians. Several states, starting with California, have done just that. They’ve created independent commissions to draw election maps. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to force every state to follow suit, although thus far it hasn’t had much success.

The second part of this deliberation focuses on this question – Would independent commissions improve the redistricting process?

Learn about the various positions on this issue by watching C-SPAN videos, reading related articles, and using our lesson plan on our C-SPAN Classroom Deliberations site. Then participate in a “Deliberation” in your classroom regarding the redistricting process.

Melanie Kirchhof

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me by one of the means below.