PLAN:THE FEDERAL CONFIRMATION PROCESS: CHOOSING THE RIGHT PERSON FOR THE JOB
Lisa Prososki, a former middle school and high school social studies, English,
reading and technology teacher.
Social Studies, Government, History
Time: Approximately three 45-minute class periods
1. Use prior knowledge to create working
definitions of terms related to the separation of powers and the system of checks
2. Participate in class and small group discussions and brainstorming
3. Utilize graphic organizers and flow charts to show relationships
between the three branches of government and processes related to confirming presidential
4. Conduct research using a number of primary sources to find facts
that support the opinions and ideas of their designated political party.
Participate in a class debate using facts, examples, and reasons to support the
ideas they are presenting.
6. Utilize decision making skills as they cast their
ballots and record specific reasons for their votes.
7. Draw conclusions based
on statistical data.
8. Utilize basic computation skills and create graphs
and charts from their mathematical data (optional)
to National Standards
the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, the director of the CIA is of key importance in
the U.S. government. President Bush recently nominated long-time politician, Porter
Goss, for the job, stirring up much controversy, particularly among democrats.
With the 2004 presidential election fast approaching, some wonder whether the
confirmation process will be split along party lines. In addition, there have
been many who have commented on the politics and procedures surrounding the entire
confirmation process, especially after the confirmation hearings involving current
Attorney General John Ashcroft.
1. Confirmation Process Flow Chart
worksheet (in PDF format) (a Teacher Key is provided)
Finding the Facts worksheet (in PDF format)
Index cards (1 per student)
4. Red and blue stickers (enough of each color
for half of the class)
5. Access to Internet and library research materials
Photocopies of recent news articles about Porter Goss being named to lead the
CIA (see links in step 6)
7. Photocopies or Internet access to graphic organizers
related to separation of powers and checks and balances (see links below in step
1: Reviewing the System of Checks and Balances (approx. 45 minutes)
Before class, place either a red or blue sticker on the top corner of each index
card. Be sure to create enough cards for each student in the class to have one.
There should be an equal number of cards with red and blue stickers. Have the
term "Checks and Balances" written on the board or overhead. As students
enter the classroom, give each student an index card. Do not allow students to
exchange index cards.
Once students are seated, direct them to write their names on the top of the index
card. Next, direct their attention to the term "Checks and Balances"
on the board. Give students 60-90 seconds to use their prior knowledge to write
a definition for the term on their index card. If students are unfamiliar with
the term, ask them to make an educated guess about what it means.
Working as a class and using students' brainstorming ideas, create a definition
for the term checks and balances. After 5-10 minutes of discussion and brainstorming,
help the class get to a definition such as: "Checks and balances are a system
that keeps one branch of government from having more power than the others. It
helps to separate and define the powers that each of the 3 branches of government
Next, review the 3 branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
Use a graphic organizer such as the one found at:
show students a basic summary of each branch and its powers. Visit the U.S. Constitution
Online for articles on the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances
Be sure all students understand the basic powers of each branch, particularly
when it comes to presidential appointments.
2: Learning about the Federal Confirmation Process (approx. 45 minutes)
Next, introduce students to the process one must go through if he/she is appointed
to a key position by the president. Using the Confirmation Process Flow Chart,
have each student complete a graphic organizer that shows the steps a candidate
must go through in order to be placed in the job. Work as a class to discuss each
component and how the system of checks and balances is working throughout the
The paragraphs below summarize the Federal Confirmation Process for Presidential
Federal Confirmation Process is part of the Checks and Balances system. It allows
the President to appoint cabinet officers and senior cabinet department heads
along with federal supreme court judges and other members of the federal judiciary.
Once the President announces the appointees, the Legislative Branch ensures that
the nominees are well qualified for the position by conducting Senate Confirmation
Hearings. During the process, members of the Senate interview and question nominees
about a wide range of topics related to their qualifications for the job and ideas
about how they will operate in the position. Upon completion of the hearings,
the Senate then votes on whether or not to confirm the President's nominee for
the position. If the nominee receives the majority of the Senate's votes, he/she
will be confirmed. In addition to the Senate Confirmation Hearings, all nominees
are also thoroughly investigated by the FBI and must complete various paperwork,
including a financial disclosure. A White House Review ensures that members of
the Executive Branch support the President's nominee for the position.
Federal Confirmation Process is a good example of how the system of Checks and
Balances allows the Executive Branch to choose people for specific jobs, while
requiring review of the nominees by the Legislative Branch to ensure that all
nominees are truly qualified to work in the position they have been nominated
for. This keeps the Executive Branch from nominating people who might support
only the political views and agenda of the president. At the same time, it allows
the president the ability to choose qualified, fair people to work in key positions
within the government.
Once students have completed the flow chart and have a basic understanding of
the process, introduce them to Porter Goss using a recent newspaper or magazine
article or an online source such as:
(Pres. Bush Nominates Porter Goss as CIA Chief)
(A New Director for the CIA) Discuss
the importance of this job in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the emphasis placed
on homeland security and fighting terrorism in the U.S. and abroad.
In the second part of the discussion, talk about why political parties can make
a difference in a nomination such as this, particularly since it is an election
year. Some topics to explore in this discussion could include:
does it mean when we use the term "partisan politics"?
you think some politicians will vote against a person who is qualified to do a
certain job just because of the political party he/she is affiliated with?
the legislative branch successfully blocks a presidential nomination in an election
year close to the time of the election, what impact could this have on the president
and his opponents as they are campaigning?
Now it is time to go back to the index cards distributed at the beginning of class.
Use these to break students into two groups. Red should go to one side of the
room, blue to the other side. From here, students should choose a partner with
the same color sticker. At this time, tell students if they are red, they are
democrats and if they are blue, they are republicans (or vice versa). Partners
should move to be seated next to one another in class.
Distribute a Finding the Facts worksheet to each
student. Review the directions for completing the worksheet. Explain to students
that they will be working with their partner to find answers to questions about
whether or not Porter Goss should be approved at the head of the CIA. Stress the
importance of doing fact-based research while recording facts that support the
particular point of view supported by the party they are representing. Remind
students they will be relying on the data they collect to conduct a class debate
about the Goss confirmation.
3: Should Goss Be Confirmed? An Informal Debate (approx. 45 minutes)
Once all students have completed their worksheets, place all of the democrats
on one side of the classroom, and place the republicans on the other side. Allow
the groups 5-7 minutes to share the answers to their questions and discuss all
related information they have about worksheet questions.
Next, create a large flow chart like the one from the Confirmation Process Flow
Chart worksheet and place it on the overhead or board. Have students work as a
class to fill in the specific steps that will need to be taken to decide if Porter
Goss will be confirmed.
Explain to students that you will now act as the moderator for an informal debate
about Porter Goss and whether or not he should be confirmed for the position to
head the CIA. The "Democrats" and "Republicans" will need
to take turns presenting the facts that support their ideas about the qualifications
and effectiveness of this particular candidate. Encourage students to share as
much information as possible when presenting their ideas. Allow for debate and
discussion between the two sides for as long as time permits or until all ideas
Close class discussion about the confirmation process by reminding students about
what they learned about "partisan politics" earlier. Then, using the
back side of the index cards, have each student vote YES if they would confirm
Porter Goss for the job as head of the CIA or NO if they would not confirm him.
In the space below their vote, have each student write 1-2 sentences explaining
the reasons for his/her vote.
Collect all of the ballots and do a quick tabulation. Show the following data:
# of YES votes
# of NO votes
# of Yes and No votes from each party (use the stickers on the front to help you
gather this data)
To add a math element, have students create charts or graphs to represent the
results of the voting.
End with a final discussion about the results of the vote. Include ideas such
you think "partisan politics" made a difference in the classroom vote?
you think the class vote is representative of what will happen once the actual
confirmation vote is taken? Why?
you think if Goss were chosen he would be the right person for the job?
Continue following up on this activity by keeping a blank copy of the confirmation
process flow chart posted in the classroom and completing it as various phases
of the confirmation process take place. In addition, encourage students to post
current news articles about the process and take time to share these with the
class periodically until the decision about Goss has been made.
1. Rather than simply debating the appointment of Porter Goss,
have students conduct a mock confirmation hearing. Assign students roles and have
them use what they learned from completing their research to conduct the hearing.
Prep students by establishing ground rules for conduct and questioning as well
as a time limit for the completion of the hearing and the subsequent vote on whether
or not to confirm Goss.
Examine the confirmation process more closely, especially as it relates to the
appointment of judges on the federal level. There has been much controversy over
the confirmation process, and with two Supreme Court justices due to retire soon
and the potential to have a new president in place, many are suggesting that the
process needs to be evaluated. Have students research the controversy surrounding
the confirmation process for judges and present possible solutions for ensuring
that the best judges are chosen for federal positions, particularly the Supreme
Court. Have students present these ideas in the form of persuasive speeches, letters
to the editor, or editorials.
Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:
5: Understands the major characteristics of systems of shared powers and of
20: Understands the roles of political parties, campaigns, elections, and
associations and groups in American politics
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research
7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different
9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media
Standard 1: Understands and applies the basic principles
of presenting an argument
Standard 6: Applies decision-making techniques
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills
Lisa Prososki is an independent educational
consultant who taught middle school and high school social studies, English, reading
and technology courses for 12 years. Prososki has worked with PBS TeacherSource
and has authored and edited many lesson plans and materials for various PBS programs
over the past nine years. In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at
various state and national meetings, Prososki works as an editor, creates a wide
range of educational and training materials for corporate clients, and has authored
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