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January 19, 2021

Brooks & Capehart classroom resource: A transformative two weeks for the U.S.

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Teachers: This past two weeks have been full of news that can be hard to process, but for that reason, is all the more important to discuss with your classes. At NewsHour EXTRA, we’ve been developing lessons and resources to contextualize the moment in a broader narrative of U.S. history. Check out lesson plans under “additional resources” below. We always welcome teacher’s sharing their own ideas about teaching the moment.

Directions: Watch the video clip, read the summary below and then answer the discussion questions. To read a transcript of the video, click here

Summary: This week marks a significant turning point in in the United States, with a new president set to be sworn in Jan. 20, an unprecedented second impeachment of President Trump and a new government promising policy and legislation that will have a profound impact on the U.S.’s recovery from a COVID-19 epidemic, its economy and its security.

  • President Trump became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice by Congress. He was impeached for inciting an attack on the Capitol based on false claims of voter fraud. Capehart says that senators come to Washington to “do hard things” and convicting the president is both hard and necessary.
  • Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20. His inaugural address will touch on themes of unity. Brooks suggests he should show that he “cares about people who think he despises them.”
  • Congress and Biden are likely to focus attention first on a large COVID relief bill, which could approach $2 trillion. The bill will contain unemployment insurance, relief for small businesses and families and support for vaccination programs. The details still need to be negotiated between parties.

Discussion:

Warm up questions: 

  1. What is the presidential inauguration, and why is it a public ceremony?
  2. Who impeached President Trump a second time, and what happens next?
  3. Why is Biden expected to offer a message of unity in his speech?
  4. When and where will President-elect Biden be sworn in as president?
  5. How will Congress and the new administration address COVID-19 recovery?

Focus questions:

  1. What do you think is the best path forward to address political division in the country?
  2. What do you think should be some priorities for the new Congress and president in the first 100 days of the new government?

Media literacy: Whose opinion would you want to hear from to better understand the historical moment we’re in, and why?

Additional resources: NewsHour EXTRA has developed the following lessons to help talk through some of the complex events of the past couple of weeks. You can use these lessons together to connect the country’s past to its present and contextualize some of the challenges facing the new administration and country as a whole:

  • Joe Biden’s inauguration will take place Wednesday. This week you can have students learn about the tradition of the presidential inauguration, the ceremony involved and plan their own inauguration using these two related EXTRA lessons.
  • The attack on the Capitol represents something unprecedented in U.S. history, a direct challenge to the peaceful transfer of power between presidents supported by those in power. But it fits into a larger context of American history, including riots and insurrections. Use these lessons to explore the history of insurrection in the U.S. and ways to discuss the Capitol attack with your students.
  • Congress pressed ahead with impeachment even though Trump’s term was set to end before removal would be possible. Still, some see impeachment and conviction as the best way to bar Trump from running again under a provision of the 14th Amendment, which you can discuss with students here.
  • Use this MLK Day lesson to explore ways the Capitol attack fits into a larger context of white supremacy and the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S.

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