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Friday, February 15, 2013

How old is too old? Writing and Resources on Term Limits

Today’s headlines touted that Senator Lautenberg, 89, the oldest member of the US Senate has decided not to run for reelection.  Really, at 89?  The Pope stepped down last week, at age 85, because he thought he might not have the stamina to do the job.   Suffice it to say that neither Congress nor the Vatican have term limits.  Should they?  I remember the minute I stepped into my classroom at the Middle School at the ripe old age of 23, the kids look at me as if I was old!  Now, the staff does.  I know that when budget time calls for RIF’s, some of our younger teachers would love to see term limits!  I have to say that the latter half of your career is prime time for learning and implementing new ideas.  There is something to be said for knowing the nuts and bolts of the job so you can spend your time finessing your skills and learning new ones.  But I digress….
The Term Limit Debate
When our Constitution was first written, there was no mention of term limits.  The 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951, restricted Presidential terms to a maximum of two terms.   Only one President, Roosevelt, served more than two terms.  
History, Civics, Language Arts and the Common Core
President’s Day is a great time to look at the debate on term limits.  The Common Core standards call for students to examine multiple perspectives and analyze points of view.  Why not have students analyze evidence (pros and cons) from multiple texts and synthesize their own thoughts on term limits?  Seems like a great way to integrate social studies and language arts while developing key critical thinking skills.
Start your students with this recent Gallop Poll  or article from USA Today that states that most Americans would like see term limits.  Have your students read about the pros and cons of term limits from various sources, write an argumentative essay, blog or speech and then finish by having them take a poll using one of several simple polling tools available online.  
Your students can look at some of these resources for different perspectives:
 Do you believe in Term Limits? Political Debates and Polls
The Term Limit Debate from
Give them a strategy
Just like a graphic organizer helps your students organize their writing, critical thinking strategies can help them organize their thinking.  Looking at term limits from different perspectives gives students the opportunity to practice SCAN:
See the issues:  What are the important issues, both pro and con from your perspective?
Clarify the issues:  What do you mean by…..?
Ask what’s most important:  Which issues are most important in terms of seriousness or urgency?
Now, what should be done? :  What do you think is the best solution to resolve the issues?  Remind students that solutions do not always have to be pro or con, they can be hybrids of the best ideas suggested.  The SCAN tool and resources at can help you get them started.
As we celebrate President’s Day having students practice good citizenship by participating in civil discourse around an authentic issue is a great way to get integrate civics and argumentative writing.  Check out Teachers’ Hub to find more Presidential Writing Prompts and Top 12 President Day Activities

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