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Issues and Impact Summer 2016

Teachers visit Washington, D.C. to tell Senate to get to work on confirmation of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
Published: 06/26/2016

Teachers Visit Washington, to tell Senate to Get to Work

Senate leaders refuse to address the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court

A group of civics, history, and social studies teachers traveled in May to Washington, D.C., to deliver a message to U.S. Senate leaders that their students know well: There are consequences when you don’t do your work. The educators were referring to the leaders’ refusal to vote or even hold a hearing on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s hard to explain to students, who believe they should be able to trust what they’ve learned about the constitution and our system of government,” says Marisol García, a middle school teacher from Phoenix, Ariz.

Patrick Chambers, who teaches AP history in Indianapolis, Ind., says legislators should trust the system: “It’s a process that’s been used for years and years. Our constitution is too sacred and too trusted to be dragged into partisan politics.”

Chambers and García were joined by a dozen other educators at a mock hearing held by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to draw attention to the importance of having the full complement of nine justices on the Supreme Court.

President Barack Obama nominated Garland in March. Garland has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the nation’s second most important court, for 19 years. He’s been the court’s chief judge the last three years.

Lisa Petrey-Kirk, a middle school teacher from Willisburg, Ky., said her eighth graders want rules and processes to be applied across the board, including national legislators: “Why can’t you get them to do their job? Why aren’t they following the rules?”

High school social studies teacher Pete Clancy, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has sought to personalize what for most students is an example of congressional dysfunction. He has incorporated into classroom discussions the significance of a fully functioning Supreme Court.

“We talk about Tinker v. Des Moines, in which the court determined a student’s freedom of speech at school,” says Clancy. “And then there is Brown v. Board of Education, which fundamentally changed the face of public education.”

The educators later described how difficult it is to explain to students how a group of senators can ignore their constitutional duty and precedent.

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