Topsy turvy civics lesson

Civics and social studies teachers (and others with a suitable “hook”) who have an interest in sparking student discussions around America’s budget allocations will find this story at Edutopia of interest. It highlights a campaign sponsored by political activist and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cofounder Ben Cohen to call more attention to what he believes are skewed Congressional spending priorities, which devote 50 percent of the U.S. tax dollar to the Pentagon. To help push the debate, Cohen financed the creation of the “Topsy Turvy” school bus which will be pulling into some school parking lots this fall.

The bus is a campaign tool for the nonprofit organization Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, which Cohen heads. According to the Edutopia story:

The goal of the organization is to get this glaring (budget) incongruity into the national dialogue in time for the 2008 presidential election. To jump-start the process (Topsy’s builders) drove the biodiesel-friendly bus from its birthplace in northern California to New Hampshire, where its next round of volunteer drivers were lined up. Along the way, they visited schools, city halls, mayors, and main streets, handing out pie-chart Frisbees and pens and screening an onboard video explaining its mission. From now until the New Hampshire and Iowa presidential primaries in January 2008, volunteers in these states will use Topsy’s message to gather signatures for a petition urging candidates to take a stand.

The story includes a link to a blog kept by bus drivers and to the BLSP website where you’ll find pie charts, etc. Edutopia leaves it to you to locate opposing points of view to balance your discussion.

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