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Annual Conference for Teachers in Civics

2023 Workshops

Holding Our Democracy Accountable

The 2023 Annual Conference for Teachers in Civics, Law, and Government will focus on the theme of “Holding Our Democracy Accountable.” Democracy works best when the citizens of a nation hold their government accountable. But how do we, as citizens, ensure that our government exercises its power responsibly and in the best interest of the people? How do we contribute to ensuring transparency, fairness, and accountability in a democratic system? In a time where the strength and integrity of our democratic institutions are paramount, it is crucial for citizens to actively engage in the process of holding our democracy accountable.

Workshop Descriptions

On the Docket with the U.S. Supreme Court
Carolyn Shapiro, Chicago-Kent College of Law
Sheldon Lyke, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Steven Schwinn, University of Illinois Chicago School of Law

This panel session will review significant U.S. Supreme Court cases of the past term and will review some of the key cases for the current term.

The Youth Power Project 
Presenters: Saanvi Arora& Allyson Chan
Youth Power Project

This youth-led organization focuses on providing a youth-centered response to declines in K-12 civic education and literacy. The project is currently developing national criteria for civic literacy and the President’s Award for Civic Engagement (PACE) under the U.S. Department of Education alongside a bipartisan Congressional coalition. This session will exchange ideas regarding the relationship between youth civic leadership and youth civic apathy in the United States, and the role of educators in cultivating young citizens starting in elementary education. We will discuss ongoing gaps and barriers in education that limit youth civic enthusiasm, review the benefits and shortcomings of topical proposals pertaining to youth civic engagement, and culminate in the production of specific recommendations leveraging youth leadership as a tool for building generations of future civic champions.

Open-source Legal Research
Presenter:  Leah Whitesel, Northwestern University, Pritzker Legal Research Center

Many of the tools used for legal research are kept in proprietary databases. This workshop will discuss best sources for open-source legal research for federal and state cases, statutes, and regulations. We will practice using the resources and share tips and tricks.

Cultivating Ethical Citizenship
Presenter: McDonald Jones, Georgetown University

As a result of this interactive workshop on transparency in government institutions and activities, participants will be empowered with the knowledge and tools to cultivate in their student’s ethical citizenship that ensures our government exercises its power responsibly and in the best interest of the people. Through simulations of the democratic process and interrogation of the Electoral College Count Clause of U.S. Constitution, participants will learn constitutional principles of accountability, explore the constitutional role of citizens in upholding democracy, and learn practical strategies to address challenges such as misinformation.

14th Amendment’s Disqualification Clause
Presenter: David Melton, Reform for Illinois & American Constitution Society

What do you think? In this session we will discuss the question of whether the 14th Amendment's disqualification clause precludes an individual from running for or serving as President because he provided aid and comfort to an insurrection, in violation of his oath of office. The legal issues will be discussed and the status of issue in the courts will be summarized.

What’s Going on with the Commerce Clause?
Presenters: Cathie Hawke & Tiffany Middleton, ABA Division for Public Education

In this session, we will delve into recent U.S. Supreme Court Cases dealing with state laws deemed in violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution--the dormant commerce clause--and states' attempts to hold the federal government accountable on urgent policy matters, including taxation, climate change, safety regulations, health care, and immigration.

Has Election Integrity Been Gerrymandered?
Presenter: Lindsey Draper, Milwaukee County Court Commissioner (Ret.)

Dating back to actions attributed to a Vice President and state governor, the practice known as gerrymandering has been a frequent element in the strategies of political parties to remain in power, often to the disadvantage of good-faith voters. The practices have often had disparate impact on particular segments of the voting population. The session will briefly review the history of the practice in the United States and examine current cases seeking to address the practice.

Engaging with Primary Sources to Promote Civil Discourse
Presenter: Jacob Schueller, Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles & History

Teachers! Facilitate civil discourse around modern policy debates by utilizing primary sources rooted in founding civics. Hinging discussions on these sources and connecting past to present allows teachers to engage students in difficult concepts in a manner that is inclusive for all students and allows the teacher to stay "above reproach". Strategies for using primary sources in a manner that students actually enjoy will be modeled. Teachers will leave the session excited and confident to use these extremely relevant and now-more-than-ever important sources that too often are wrongly viewed as tired, old, and boring.

 Government Transparency:  The Sunshine Laws
Presenter: Steve Elrod , Elrod Friedman LLP

This session will feature an in-depth look at the laws that make governmental operations open and accessible to the public.  Presented by a Chicago attorney who currently serves as corporation counsel and village attorney to numerous Chicago area municipalities, this session will examine the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and the Illinois Open Meetings Act, and will provide a look behind the intent of the laws, and the ways in which they have been executed, and violated, by local governments and elected officials.


This is a partial list.



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