Civics and Debate in Florida

In January of 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, backed by a significant grant from the Marcus Foundation and in collaboration with the Florida Education Foundation, announced the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative as part of his civic literacy efforts.

This past weekend, your bloghost had the great pleasure to attend the inaugural National Civics and Debate Tournament in Orlando. This was an interesting and exciting event that featured about 150 middle and high school students from more than 25 schools spanning the breadth of Florida.

The effort itself is an expansion of Florida Debate Initiative, led by Beth Eskin and Tara Tedrow in central Florida. As they say,

So who was at the debate, and what did they have to do? Take a look at the competing schools!

The event featured students competing in four categories: Congressional Debate, Extemporaneous Debate, Impromptu Speaking, and Extemporaneous Sports Analysis. That latter category, Extemporaneous Sports Analysis, is an interesting one. This was the first debate tournament of any significance to feature this sort of activity as a competitive event. Students were given five minutes to do a ‘commentary’ or analysis of a particular sports related topic. For example, ‘will Messi ever win another championship’ or ‘will the influx of European players change the NBA’. Keep in mind that many of these students had very little knowledge of the sports involved, though they had some time to research and develop their arguments. And oh my goodness it was fun to watch! It was as if the students channeled the best of Stephen A. Smith.

Students competed in all of these categories throughout the weekend, and were able to relax and let off some of the stress and pressure with an ice cream social on Friday evening and civics trivia (which was quite fun!) on Saturday. And as you can see below, they did a great deal of work in this competition!

The top 15 middle school students and the top 5 high school students in each event were recognized (with the exception of Extemporaneous Sports Analysis, which was only open to high school students and the top 3 winners were recognized).

Ultimately, however, there can only be one overall winner at each grade span, and look at the size of the trophies featured below! Congrats to Simon Denahan of Kanapaha Middle School and Alex Vilhan of Lake Mary Prep for their wins.

Middle School Champion
Simon Denahan, Kanapaha Middle School, Alachua County
High School Champion
Alex Vihlan, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Seminole County

The opportunity for students to engage in civics and debate is an important one. We here at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the Lou Frey Institute are so glad for the opportunity to support the entire civic literacy effort, including the debates.

Are you a Florida teacher or district leader interested in getting civics and debate into your school? This is a supported effort; the state will help you get it going! We encourage you to reach out to the wonderful Elizabeth Eskin, Director of the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative.

New Civics-related Lessons for Teaching the Holocaust Now Available

Good morning friends. This Holocaust Education Week here in Florida, we are please to share with you a new set of stand alone lessons that connect civics concepts and ideas to aspects of the Holocaust. These lessons are for middle and high school students and cover a wide spectrum. Please note that a free Florida Citizen log in may be required.

What was the Holocaust?

In this lesson, students will understand the key concepts about how and why the Holocaust happened. Students will view a detailed timeline through a series of short video clips and analyze how the Nazis persecuted and murdered Jews as well as other people targeted during the Holocaust (1933 -1945).

Civil Disobedience

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the concept of civil disobedience through direct instruction and methods of classification regarding types of resistance. The students will then examine multiple primary sources of Jewish and non-Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. Students will then classify the type of resistance presented in the primary source scenarios.

Comparing Preambles

This lesson focuses on how leaders shape the goals and purposes of government as established by the preambles to their constitutions. In this lesson students will compare the Wimar Republic and the United States preambles to important foundational documents. They will complete this by using primary text excerpts and other visual resources. Through analysis and application students are able to see the goals and intentions of these governments.

Declaring Independence

In this lesson, students will shape arguments about Israel and its connection to independence on the international stage using the seven reasons outlined in the Israel Declaration of Establishment. Students will outline the relationship between Israel and the United States. This lesson will support student understanding as to why newly independent nations seek such recognition including trade opportunities, diplomatic relations, and military protection.

Due Process

This lesson will consider what it means to apply due process to a scenario based on a true event. They will be given multiple scenarios from former Nazi guards and their role in the Holocaust. Students will then apply the requirements of due process to each scenario.

Loss of Natural Rights

In this lesson, students will learn about how the Nazi regime used various social, political and legal tools to exclude Jews from society. Students will view seven scenarios in Nazi Germany that depict a loss of rights. Each scenario will include several artifacts such as images, data, or text, that the students will use to determine which rights are being denied.

Nazi Propaganda

In this lesson, students will define propaganda and how propaganda is used to support a government’s agenda. Students will apply critical reading and thinking skills to various media presentations through analysis of the techniques commonly used in Nazi propaganda. Students will analyze how Nazis used propaganda to indoctrinate and manipulate the German people.

Preventing Genocide

In this lesson students will apply their knowledge of the rule of law and forms of government by comparing two forms of government (autocracy and representative democracy) and their impact of the rule of law comparing Nazi Germany to the United States government. This will be completed by using a student friendly reading and then constructing a two column comparison chart.

Rule of Law & Forms of Government

In this lesson students will apply their knowledge of the rule of law and forms of government by comparing two forms of government (autocracy and representative democracy) and their impact of the rule of law comparing Nazi Germany to the United States government. This will be completed by using a student friendly reading and then construct a two column comparison chart.

Wagner-Rogers Bill

In this lesson students will apply their knowledge of the legislative process by examining a proposed bill from Congress regarding refugee quotas at the start of World War II. Students will complete a close read activity using a primary source document (Wagner-Rogers Bill) to determine the author’s purpose. Through this lesson they will be able to connect how the United States attempted to respond to the Jewish refugee crisis.

You can find all of these lessons over at Florida Citizen.

Teaching the Bonus March with the Hoover Library!

Good afternoon, friends! Did you miss yesterday’s webinar with the Hoover Presidential Library and Museum? It’s now available online! Click here to view it.

Join Elizabeth Dinschel, Archivist and Education Specialist from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum for her session: The Bonus March: How to Teach History with a Civics Lesson

In 1932, World War I veterans boarded freight trains from Portland, Oregon, to Washington, DC, to lobby Congress for early payment of a bonus that was scheduled to be paid in 1945. On July 28th, 1932, the police, and later the military, put down a riot made up of nearly 60,000 Bonus Marchers. This webinar will show how to blend primary sources, historic narrative, and civics into an inquiry arc using the Bonus March. 

Don’t forget to sign up for our next webinar with the Truman Library to discuss Truman and the Steel Crisis!

Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference is this weekend! RED, WHITE, and BLUE TOO!

Well, friends, it’s almost time for the FCSS Conference! While it’s too late to register online, there is certainly room for you when you show up on Friday for our opening reception, sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute! And be sure to wear your Red, White, and Blue this weekend as we come together to discuss this More Perfect Union of ours, and how we teach it.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Presidential Libraries Webinar: President Carter and Camp David

Good afternoon, friends. Did you miss our first Presidential Libraries webinar? It’s now available at our channel on Schooltube! Click here to access the webinar.

The presentation is available here:

And be sure to join us on 03 November for our next webinar, with the Hoover Library!

You can register for the webinar series here. Questions? Email us!

Florida Council For the Social Studies Annual Conference: Thanks to Some of Our Sponsors!

No conference can be successful without the generous support of sponsors, and this weekend’s FCSS annual conference (register here!) is no different. So let’s look this morning at our sponsors!

Keynote and Breakfast Sponsor: Newsela

Newsela is one of my favorite resources, and has a great number of useful and leveled texts for civics and the social studies!

Lunch and Learn: National Geographic/Cengage

We all know the good work that National Geographic does. We are excited to be joined by our friends from National Geographic/Cengage to have an engaging Lunch and Learn with conference attendees. These are always interesting and interactive, and it’s a great opportunity to learn and nosh!

Friday Opening Reception: Bill of Rights Institute

We are excited to announce that the Bill of Rights Institute will be sponsoring Friday evening’s opening reception. They will also be doing a session at the conference, and we encourage you to check out their excellent resources!

Be sure to register for the conference here. 

Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference is Next Week!

Friends, just a reminder that the Florida Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference is next weekend here in Orlando. And we hope that you can join us for what will be a great set of sessions!

Teaching America’s Founding Principles

Home Page - Jack Miller Center

In this session teachers will explore a variety of lesson plan ideas for teaching principles such as federalism, separation of powers, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to keep and bear arms. All lessons are developed by Dr. Danton Kostandarithes, Teacher Education Fellow with the Jack Miller Center, for the purpose of helping middle and high school teachers explore these concepts through primary sources.

Cultivating Civic Culture in the Classroom

Cato Institute - Wikipedia

Explore and address the state of public discourse and partisanship in the country. Learn how to set an example of constructive engagement on areas of disagreement while providing opportunities to emphasize areas of agreement in your classroom discussions. The workshop will demonstrate different methods to model and promote civil discourse in your classroom /school.

Realizing the Aspirations of the Declaration of Independence

About BRI - Bill of Rights Institute

In this session, we will compare a collection of texts from the Declaration of Independence to modern day, answering the question, “To what extent have the aspirations in the Declaration been realized?”

Teaching about Civility and Incivility

Curriculum for Justice and Harmony: Deliberation, Knowledge, and Actio

This session provides an overview of the concepts of civility and incivility across different contexts and engages participants in considering the application of these concepts to concrete examples in social studies.

Be sure to register for the conference here. You can view the conference program here.

Lesson Plan: Why are the founding principles essential for a free society?

Good morning, friends in civics and the social studies. Recently, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill Five. This bill does a great many things in relation to civics and government, but today’s post is specifically about this aspect, which adds a specific requirement to high school American Government:

one-half credit in United States Government, which must include a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom
and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States

Our work here at the Lou Frey Institute/Florida Joint Center for Citizenship is focused on ensuring that teachers have the resources they need to teach what they are supposed to teach. And this new requirement can be a tricky one to do effectively.

This past summer, we joined other civic education organizations (The Jack Miller Center, Ashbrook, and the Bill of Rights Institute) with the support of the Florida Education Foundation and the Florida Department of Education to support teachers in multiple locations across the state. Our session ‘workshopped’ a lesson/activity that could be used to support implementation of HB5. And we are pleased to make this available now on Florida Citizen.

This lesson will take about a class period, and uses a jigsaw approach to compare our Founding Principles to totalitarianism, using Mussolini’s 1932 work ‘What is Fascism?’ as a starting point. It includes a link to a slide deck that you are free to download and modify as needed.

The lesson comes in multiple formats that you may find useful for modification as well. There are also links to primary sources related to both Communism and Nazism to support additional comparisons.

Questions about the lesson? Email us!

The Lou Frey Institute/FJCC Advisory Council of Educators is looking to launch!

As an organization, the Lou Frey Institute and FJCC want to ensure that we are supporting our teachers and the broader civic education community to the best of our ability. In pursuit of this, we are launching a new advisory council of Florida middle school civics educators! This group would provide us with guidance and feedback on our work, and also provide experts that we can turn to to support projects and activities we are working on.

We are seeking about 30 Florida middle school civics teachers, with a variety of experience, that will provide us with demographic and regional diversity and ensure that we putting out the best resources for civic education that we can. Are you interested? Please complete the application. We would love for you to be a part! Questions? Email Steve at any time!

Help the Lou Frey Institute/FJCC support you! Complete our survey!

Good afternoon, friends. Many of you are familiar with our resources at Civics360 and Florida Citizen. And it is those latter resources we would like to ask you to help us with today. As we start our revision work to align our materials to the upcoming 2023-2024 K-12 civics benchmarks, we would be grateful for your feedback on our lesson plans and related materials.

It should only take a few minutes, and even if you aren’t a Florida teacher, we want your feedback if you use our lesson plans. You can complete the survey/feedback form here. Thanks so much for taking the time to help us improve!