- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2008

As President Bush finishes his final State of the Union address tonight, some youngsters across the country may be yelling, “Bingo.”

That’s because a lesson plan and bingo game, developed by the National Constitution Center, aims to entice young people to watch the speech, learn about issues facing the country and listen to how the president plans to resolve them.

The NCC, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that educates the public about the Constitution, has developed a State of the Union lesson for students in grades six through 12. Under the plan, students were asked to read Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution in class before tonight’s address. Then, as a homework assignment, they were given a “State of the Union Bingo” card to use as they watch the speech. Cards will have key phrases and words such as “health care,” “global war on terror,” “climate change” and “tax credit.” In the days after the speech, students will be asked to share the results of their cards and discuss the speech.

Officials at the NCC hope that this lesson plan will help engage young people in the political process.

“While ‘State of the Union Bingo’ may not yet be the Super Bowl or Academy Awards, the impact it will have in classrooms and households across the country will be immense,” the NCC said in a press release. “This unique learning tool will help students understand the constitutional requirements for the State of the Union address, examine the choices the President makes, describe the events and topics addressed, analyze the President’s legislative plan and learn how competitive they can really be.”

NCC officials said there is no way to know how many teachers have downloaded the plan and game from its Web site. This is the second year it has been made available. Bingo cards are updated to reflect current issues and phrases the president is likely to use.

Some educators worry that today’s youths lack a basic knowledge of U.S. history, government and presidents.

A survey released last year polled 14,000 college freshmen and seniors at 50 schools and found that the average score for seniors on questions related to U.S. presidents was a failing grade of 57.6 percent. The poll, commissioned by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, found that even some of the most educated American students had trouble answering basic questions about U.S. presidents, including dates and the major events of their presidencies.

An NCC poll taken in 1998 found that more American teens could name the Three Stooges than could name the three branches of government.

“Survey after survey documents a disturbing lack of knowledge about our government on the part of students. So it’s important to find new ways to engage young citizens with the political process,” said NCC President Joe Torsella, who added that NCC develops other teaching material as well. “State of the Union Bingo is one example of how we’re going about the job of creating young citizens who inform themselves about the issues of the day.”

The free State of the Union lesson plan and Bingo game can be viewed at: www.constitutioncenter.org/education/ForEducators/LessonPlans/ 17166.shtml.

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