“The U.S. Census Bureau has created a Census in Schools program called 2010 Census: It’s About Us. The program will provide educators with resources to teach the nation’s students about the importance of the census so children can help deliver this message to their families.” U.S. Census Bureau
Little Johnny sits attentively in his seat. Being in first grade, Johnny is very impressionable. And he really wants to please his teacher. So he gladly listens and repeats everything she says, taking it to heart as well as any young child can.
For her part, Ms. Jones believes in education. She hasn’t engaged in the debate over the role of government in schools. She just wants to help her students succeed as best she knows how.
So when she receives a package of lesson plans from the U.S. Census Bureau, Ms. Jones doesn’t even think to read between the lines. Instead, she decides to integrate the census into her social studies curriculum. It’s topical and her students seem interested.
Ms. Jones reads the first lesson plan and follows the instructions:
1. Write the words good neighbor, law, and responsibility on the board. Ask: What do these words mean?
2. Ask: Are you a good neighbor? What laws do you know about? What does it mean to be responsible? Encourage a classroom discussion that reinforces the concepts of being a good neighbor and civic responsibility. Make a list on the board of different laws with which students are familiar (e.g., wear a seat belt, children must go to school, drivers must stop at red lights, etc.). (emphasis in original)
She then continues with the lesson. At the end, Ms. Jones transitions into the wrap-up:
9. Write the sentence, “It’s about us” on the board. Discuss how it relates to the concept of being a good neighbor (if everyone is a good neighbor, our country will be a better place).
10. Have students create “good neighbor” badges. Distribute a sheet of colored paper to each student. Ask students to trace around their right hands to make a handprint.
11. Ask students to decorate their handprint badges with drawings that show how they are good neighbors. Use tape to attach the handprint badges to students’ shirts.
Little Johnny wants to please Ms. Jones, so he decorates his badge with a drawing of him helping his dad fill out a census form. He whispers to himself that he will try to be a good neighbor. And he will always remember her words, “A good neighbor is a person who does useful things for his or her neighborhood, town, and country.”
Next year, Johnny will nag his parents to complete the census form. And just like Sinatra’s character in The Manchurian Candidate, Johnny will react as instructed whenever he hears the phrase, “good neighbor.”
As an adult, Johnny (now going by John) will reflexively vote for local school issues, etc. He will support government in every way possible. Because to be a bad neighbor would disappoint Ms. Jones.