Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welcome to CitizenU

CitizenU is designed to give students a critical perspective on politics and government. This course involves both the study of general concepts used to interpret United States politics and the analysis of specific government case studies. It also requires familiarity with the various institutions, groups, beliefs, and ideas that make up the American political reality.

James Madison once said, “The very success of democracy depends upon the knowledge and skills of its citizens.”

At the conclusion of this course students will appreciate both the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen. More importantly, the success of our democracy will be made more certain.

Soon instructions and lessons will be available at this site. Until then all enquiries can be made to:


Also welcome to the 21st century classroom. Thank you for joining an experiment in learning. Technology has always been a tool to advance learning. Whether it was the printing press or TV, new technologies have always provided new opportunities to learn efficiently. The Internet will do no less. Equality of opportunity can now fully be realized. Here at CitizenU we think this opportunity is just in time.


Activity One.

Read The Origins of the American Constitution.
by Michael Kammen. Consider the questions below and blog your responses. You also can send your comments and questions to

1. FDR described “[the Constitution] a layman’s document, not a lawyer’s contract.” What did he mean? Would Michael Kammen agree? Explain.

2. According to this reading, why is an understanding of the U.S. Constitution essential?

3. At its origin, how did American constitutionalism differ from the English model?

4. Federalists and Anti-Federalists were present at our founding. They differed greatly on many issues. What two primary ideas did they both agree?

5. Despite its flaws, what remarkable achievement was codified into our constitution? What long lasting principle did they build into our political fabric?

6. What did the Founding Fathers think about changing the work they had done? How did they build this into their final document?

7. Bonus When writing to Hamilton, George Washington used a particular metaphor to describe what the constitution had created. What was the metaphor? How might we use that same metaphor today in this class?

Activity Two.

Would You Rather Have...
Taking Turns Being a ‘Framer’

Directions: Read each of the following six (6) predicaments. Carefully choose the BEST option in each. Be prepared to qualify your decision. Blog your answers below. Interact with other blogs as well.

(1) Would you rather have a . . .

a. A political system with the most popular democracy possible - that is one that translated popular wants into laws and policies as efficiently as possible; or...

b. A political system that gave elected officials considerable latitude to do what they wanted to or felt best, without having to worry too much about public opinion?

(2) Would you rather have a . . .

a. A political system that could quickly make policy changes; or...

b. A political system where major changes in policy are very hard to effect and happen only rarely?

(3) Would you rather have a . . .

a. A political system that allows minorities to block governmental actions that they feel are unfair or unjust to them; or...

b. A political system in which the majority prevails, even in the face of minority opposition?

(4) Would you rather have a . . .

a. A political system that seeks to make its citizens virtuous and good; or...

b. A political system that leaves citizens alone to live as they wish?

(5) Would you rather have a . . .

a. A political system with the power centralized in one place, to allow coherent and consistent policy across an entire nation; or...

b. A political system with power decentralized, to represent the needs and wants of various localities?

(6) Would you rather have a . . .

a. A political system that assumes that people are generally self-seeking, and attempts to make the best of that fact; or...

b. A political system that seeks to make its citizens unselfish and concerned with the common good?

Activity Three.

Complete the assignment The Root Principles of Government.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kernel Clunk

He was a victim of his own success.

According to Colonel Klink of Hogan’s Heroes fame, “There has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13.” If only the Commandant had known the whole truth. Stalag 13 was anything but secure. In the popular television show Hogan’s Heroes the POWs of Stalag 13 operated a full-scale underground espionage unit under the nose of the nincompoop Klink. Klink was blinded by his own success.

Similarly this week we learned of another “victim of its own success.” President Obama announced that the popular “Cash for Clunkers” program ends at 8 PM on Monday night. It has run out of money.

The Administration will boast of its success. It will be argued that hundreds of thousands of gas guzzling cars have been permanently removed from the streets. Manufacturing in America is up. Thousands of workers have found new jobs. The auto industry is saved. The American consumer is confidant again. Happy days are here again.

In such claims kernels of truth can be found.

To date close to 500,000 clunkers have been turned in due to this program. Over $2 billion of the appropriated $3 billion has been claimed by auto dealerships around the country. A $4,500 government subsidy proved to be a powerful incentive to buy a new car.

The long-term affect, however, may prove to be more revealing.

Of that $2 billion owed to dealerships, less than $200 million has been distributed. The thousand or so employees of the Department of Transportation dedicated to this program are swamped. Seemingly the program was ended less because of a cash shortage and more because of a manpower shortage. The government cannot keep up with the requests and the dealerships are beginning to toot their horns. Many dealerships are worried that Obama has sold them a lemon. Obama cannot afford negative feedback from a relatively small program with his health care debate on the horizon. Quit while you are ahead.

The lessons here are plentiful.

Public policy ain’t beanbag. The idea behind “Cash for Clunkers” proved to be a bulls-eye. Interest exceeded expectations. Overwhelming participation in the program undercut the Department of Transportation’s readiness to fulfill its obligations. The symbolic success of the program soon exceeded the reality of implementation. Claim success and get out before a good thing turns bad.

When searching for ways to fundamentally transform the American economy in the 1930s President Roosevelt said, “It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

President Obama hasn’t let Roosevelt down. He has been open to many ideas. Acknowledging the limitations of his ideas, however, is not one of Obama’s strong suits. Claiming one thing without recognizing the truth of another will ultimately dog this president like it has for all of the others. Playing politics at the expense of governing cannot last forever.

If Obama cannot be frank with the American people he will lose our trust. Then he too will become a victim of his own success.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Temperatures outside are rising but so too is the temperature inside the Beltway. Partisan fury is heating up inside Washington D.C. But that is not the only place. Political prairie fires are starting in the grassroots of Congressional Districts all across America.

There must be an election season coming soon.

Politics alone cannot explain our fiery spirit. There is genuine angst as the economic recession grows worse for millions of Americans. Unemployment is still high and some lost jobs may never return. The news from Afghanistan is more about troop losses than progress among tribal leaders.

Time to let off a little steam.

How would you grade President Obama's first months as President?

His campaign motto was "Yes We Can." What should his motto be now?


As always remember to check out the 2 Teachers at CBS2 School

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Civics Review

Click below and find a helpful review for your FINAL questions about U.S. government and politics.

Advanced Placement Final Exam Review.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

MMVIII: “A Really Big Shoe”

2008 will go down as a watershed year. Like 1968, this past year is worthy of another posthole for our memories. Ed Sullivan, the long time CBS variety show host, would have called it “a really big shew.”

Here are just a few of the memorable moments:

In January crude oil topped $100 per barrel for the first time in history. The shock of it all sent seismic waves through the entire economy. The oil crisis of 2008 permanently changed our thinking about energy.

In February Fidel Castro announced his resignation as President of Cuba. A Western Hemisphere bad guy for over fifty years, a Caribbean without Castro may allow us to put the Cold War to bed once and for all.

In March Tibetan separatists raged against their government machine. The talk of human rights around the world escalated as well. Our attention was peaked.

In April two bionic eyes were implanted in an Eye Hospital in London. In a world reeling from self-doubt, medical marvels like this energize our confidence. Our innovative tendencies remind us that hope is still our greatest natural resource.

In May a deadly earthquake in China killed over 70,000. Mother nature still rules despite our misplaced sense of mastery over our time and space. 2008 reaffirmed our mortal vulnerabilities.

In June Bill Gates stepped down as Chairman of Microsoft Corporation. Our self-made billionaire and crowned Geek modeled the ultimate American ideal; make all you can, save all you can and give away all you can. Not all of the Captains of Industry were Robber Barons.

In July we witnessed the heroic rescue of hostages taken by FARC in Columbia. Crime does not pay despite ample evidence to the contrary. Intelligence can still live up to its name.

In August the Beijing Olympics captured our attention. Soon thereafter Michael Phelps captured everything else by winning 8 Gold Medals.

In September the world’s first privately developed space vehicle successfully orbited the earth. SpaceX’s Falcon 1 proved again that fooling around with the junk in the garage could in fact be productive. The frontier has not closed yet. We keep reaching for the stars.

In October the global financial crisis induced the United States government to enact a $700 billion bailout package. The Treasury Fund allowed the government to buy back troubled securities. More so it proved again what Madison said two hundred years ago, “if men were angels we would not need government.”

In November Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. Camelot meets Obamalot.

In December Théoneste Bagosora and two other senior Rwandan army officers were convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. We were reminded that truth and justice were not uniquely American pursuits.

And will we ever forget the Iraqi journalist who threw his two shoes at President George Bush during a press conference?

2008 reminded us of our inherent limitations and failings. Our ability, however, to overcome, to be innovative, to act out for the goodness of all, to laugh remains strong. In an age known for its uncertainty, we have reason to be hopeful. In the words of Ed Sullivan, 2008 was “a really big shew.”

In fact it was “a really big shoe.”

Thursday, December 04, 2008


The 2 Regular Guys have been attending to their schoolwork, CBS2 School that is.  Watch and learn at 

In the mean time see if you can solve their Supreme Court sudoku.  Send in your solved puzzles via a comment.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Join us for the rest of the week at as Mr. Larsen and Mr. Conneen (CBS 2 Regular Guys) visit the RNC in St. Paul explain to students of government why this civics pep rally still matters.