Today's lesson in AP U.S. Government: What just happened with Kevin McCarthy

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Christopher Gleditsch, a teacher at KIPP DC College Preparatory School in Washington D.C., leads students in AP U.S. Government.

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Teacher Christopher Gleditsch leads AP U.S. Government students at KIPP DC College Preparatory, Washington D.C.

Laurel Wamsley/NPR


As high school seniors at KIPP DC College Preparatory in Washington, D.C. took their seats in AP U.S. Government class this week, they were already talking about the day’s lesson: what had just happened in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Well, it happened last night,” said teacher Christopher Gleditsch. He was talking about the event he had discussed in class the day before: the removal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, as Speaker of House. Gleditsch said to the class that this had never happened in American history.

The timing of the event was perfect, as the class just finished studying the legislative branch and the leaders. The upheaval on Capitol Hill was a chance for the class to look at how well — or not — that structure is working right now.

Gleditsch asked why a small group of fellow Republicans went after McCarthy.

“They decided to remove him because he was siding with the Democrats at certain times. … (NPR does not use students’ last names because they are minors.) NPR does not use the last names of students because they are minors.

KIPP DC College Prep students taking AP U.S. Government.

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A few students from the AP U.S. Government course at KIPP DC College prep.

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“But, like… isn’t this how Congress is supposed work?” Aren’t they supposed to be working together?” Gleditsch countered.
“I feel that’s the way it’s meant to be,” Jakiya, a student suggested. The way Congress is currently set up, it seems like Republicans and Democrats are always going to be separated because they can’t and won’t agree about certain issues. When we studied the Republican and Democrat philosophies they saw things differently. Joe Kennealy’s class at Hiawatha Collegiate High School, Minneapolis was no exception. Polarization was on the minds of all students in Joe Kennealy’s class. The students were seated in a circle with the

Star Tribune

paper strewn in the middle with the headline “McCarthy Dragged Out of GOP Revolt”. Luke, a senior, said that it’s good to disagree, but if you start demonizing one another, it will be impossible to find common ground. His classmate Sarah said that the consequences of not fighting for your beliefs can be too high. If you feel that your identity is under attack, you will be more passionate. “


Students from Minneapolis’ Hiawatha College High School discuss the polarization of the federal government.

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Students at Minneapolis’ Hiawatha Collegiate High school discuss polarization in the federal government.

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This is according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. “One thing about civic education that’s challenging is that we neglected it for the past three decades or so,” she says. That’s according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.“One of the things about civic education that’s challenging is that we neglected it for the past three decades or so for sure,” she says.A 2021

report funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education estimated that the federal government spends about $50 per student per year on studies related to science and math, but only five cents on civics.

That’s a problem, Kawashima-Ginsberg says, because not only does civics education teach students how the government is supposed to function, it also teaches students how to disagree with one another in a productive way.

“Schools can offer different opportunities in that students will meet somebody that thinks differently than themselves. And that practice of doing that with somebody and then still coming back with something they learned is going to go a long way,” says Kawashima-Ginsberg, who was on the report committee. The stakes are high, says Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, who was also on the committee. “We are clearly displaying signs that we are living in a dangerous political environment, with anger and demonization on one extreme and disaffection and people tuning out on the other extreme,” says Carrese. He says that teachers at any level can make lemonade out of the lemon when there is bad news or something striking in the news. It’s not that we are perfect or flawless, but I think it’s a wonderful human story. It’s important to make young people interested in it. “

The turmoil on Capitol Hill was used as a lesson in high school civics, such as one taught at KIPP DC College Prep, located in Northeast Washington, D.C.

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The turmoil at Capitol Hill was a topic of discussion in high school civics courses, such as one taught by KIPP DC College Prep, located in Northeast Washington D.C.

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He said he’s not sure whether lawmakers care what he thinks. He said he doesn’t know if lawmakers really care about what he has to say. “They are all closed-door meetings. They make all their rules. “

Kennealy was listening across the room. Kennealy: “I’d love to think that

won’t end up there.” If done correctly, civics and government classes can help students understand the systems they are already part of. The classes help them understand what is happening on Capitol Hill and whether Congress is working as it should.