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Friday, July 29, 2011

Civic Learning Opportunity: Budget and Debt Debate

John Boehner and President Obama work together

Following the news about the federal budget and debt debate? This is a good civic learning opportunity for everyone, including kids!

Discussing political topics with your children and teens

This is an opportunity for your children and teens to explore important issues about government, citizenship, leadership and more. There are many topics to discuss, without getting into specific political viewpoints.

It is always a good practice to clearly identify what is fact, and what is opinion. This will help kids learn to make that essential distinction, and to develop their own ideals.

Possible topics and questions to ask and discuss

  • Government - What roles do the President , House of Representatives and Senate play in making and enacting the federal budget? What responsibilities does each leader and government group have? How many votes does it take to pass a budget? Is this easy or hard to do? Why?
  • Citizenship -  Do Americans have roles and responsibilities in this issue? Does it make a difference if people know about the issue? Should people contact their leaders in Washington? How do you do that? What would you say?
  • Leadership - What does it mean to be a leader? What are some characteristics of leaders? Do all leaders do the same things? Is a leader still a good leader if you don't agree with their position on an issue? How do leaders persuade others to follow? Can you be friends with people who have different ideas than you?
  • Working together - What does it mean to negotiate? Collaborate? Compromise? What do you do if you believe your solution is the #1 best idea and you don't want to change your mind? If you are working together in a group, is it possible for everyone to agree on everything? What happens then?
  • Communicating - What are good ways to communicate an idea? How do you get people to agree with you? How do you listen and respond to someone who disagrees with you?
  • The Constitution - If Congress decides to pass a balanced budget agreement, what happens? What is the process for this? How long does it take? Does it require an amendment to the Constitution? What are some other issues that required amendments to the Constitution?
  • Political parties - What does it mean to be a Democrat or a Republican? Do all of the people in a political party think alike? What happens when there are different opinions and solutions for solving problems?
  • Budgeting - What does it mean to make a budget? Do you know what revenue is? Expense? Debt? Are there good kinds of debt? Like what?What is a deficit? Is that good or bad, or sometimes both?
  • Media - How has the media covered this story? Does everyone in the news media cover the story the same way? What are the similarities and differences? Why?  Is there a difference between reporting a story and giving an opinion? Why is that important?
  • Global impact - Do other countries care what happens in the US? Why or why not? How do they keep track? Is the coverage different in global news media?
  • State and local impact - How do federal government decisions impact the state? the city? the county? the schools? businesses? Do people who are in state or local government, businesses or schools try to influence the policies and decisions made at the national level? Why? How?
  • What would you do? - If you could advise President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner, or other leaders and politicians, what would you say?  If you were writing a story about this issue, what would your headline be?

Overall, look for the "big picture" themes and topics instead of focusing only on politics and what the Ds and Rs think or want.

Learn more
Contact your leaders
Learn about the President, House and Senate
What is a filibuster? Cloture? US Senate Glossary
Learn about the Constitution
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