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Civics for Kids

Follow Tevin Johnson as he heads to D.C. to see what happens in a landmark ruling that will decided whether his two Dads can marry.

The Civics Education Initiative

By Reid Wilson September 17

Name one of the authors of the Federalist Papers. How many justices are on the Supreme Court? What do we call the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

Students in seven states may soon be required to know the answers to those questions and more before they graduate from high school. A group aimed at boosting civics education in U.S. schools is using today, the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, to begin pushing state legislatures to require high school graduates to pass the same exam that immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass.

The Civics Education Initiative will introduce legislation in Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah to require students to take the test at any point during their high school careers, and to pass it before receiving a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree.

Public surveys show they have a long way to go. A 2011 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found just 15 percent of Americans could correctly identify the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, while 27 percent knew Randy Jackson was a judge on American Idol. Only 13 percent knew the Constitution was signed in 1787. And just 38 percent were able to name all three branches of government.

In each of the seven states, CEI has prominent co-chairs who will back the legislation. Former senators Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will push legislation in Phoenix. Sen. Tom Coburn (R) is supporting the measure in his home state of Oklahoma. And former South Carolina governors Jim Edwards (R), Dick Riley (D) and Jim Hodges (D) will advocate for the test in Columbia.
Their goal: To implement similar requirements in every state by Sept. 17, 2017, the Constitution’s 230th birthday.

If they succeed, students graduating from high school will already know the answers to the three questions above: That John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers, that there are nine members of the Supreme Court, and that the first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.

How would you do on the U.S. Citizenship Quiz? Test yourself here:
View Photo Gallery —The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services partnered to create a Web site to help immigrants study for the civics portion of the naturalization test. The questions below are samples from their preparation materials. During a naturalization interview, you would be asked up to 10 civics questions from a list of 100. You must correctly answer six questions to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test. The exam requires you say the answers aloud.
Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post’s GovBeat blog. He’s a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he’s a complete political junkie.

Civics for Kids

Civics Education for Kids

By Aisha Sultan

At least two children were treated and released for tear gas exposure Sunday after protests in Ferguson turned violent, according a spokeswoman at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

One adult has also been treated at Christian Hospital, a spokesman said.

Dr. Doug Carlson, who works in the ER at Children’s, said he has never treated tear gas exposure before but has treated children exposed to pepper spray, which can cause similar symptoms.

“It’s debilitatingly, extraordinarily painful,” Carlson said. But most exposure does not cause tissue damage. “If you are exposed, most of the time, (the pain) lasts for a few hours.”

Immediately get out of the area, he said.

“If you go to the ER, we would clean you off, get you in clean clothes, rinse you off and rinse out your eyes.”

He has seen pictures of people rinsing their eyes with milk, but there is no evidence that it helps or works better than water, he said.

In rare instances, when a person has an underlying lung disease, exposure to tear gas can lead to serious illness, he said. It can trigger asthma in rare cases, as well.

“If you inhale it directly right where it is going off, it can lead to short term significant illness … It can cause irritation down into the lungs,” Carlson said.

An adult patient once told him that tear gas exposure is the most painful thing he’s ever experienced.

Carlson said the protests, while mostly peaceful, have not been predictable, and it’s best not have children near them.

“You’re not in control of the other people, if they start behaving poorly, if the police believe they need to intervene,” he said.

His concerns were echoed by Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann, a pediatrician who also works in the Children’s ER and co-hosts our monthly parent chats on

“I think it is fabulous to involve children in peaceful protests, but given the violence that has erupted in Ferguson and the use of tear gas, I think the risks outweigh the benefits for children,” she said. “I would be very concerned about any child with a history of asthma” who has been exposed, she said.

Many children have attended protests and rallies during the day, which have been peaceful and free of the violence that has erupted at night.

“Fortunately, it’s not so often in the U.S. that tear gas is used,” Carlson said.

Police have released tear gas several of the nights during the protests to disperse crowds. Amnesty International has said it is sending its human rights teams for the first time within the United States to monitor and assist the protesters in Ferguson.



Aisha Sultan/

There was an eerie flashback to 1965 in parts of the St. Louis region Sunday. Riot gear. Tear gas. German shepherds. Looting. Stores on fire. Dozens arrested.

It was the violent aftermath of a violent encounter the day before between a police officer and teenager Mike Brown, who was killed. On this very same night that Ferguson boiled over, the Watts riots had burned in Los Angeles nearly 50 years prior.

It’s hard to explain race relations within the St. Louis metro area to those who have never lived here. It’s even harder to make sense of it for children being raised in a more diverse and multiracial America than ever before.

It’s important to consider our recent past.

St. Louis, recently ranked as the sixth most racially segregated city in the country, has entrenched polarized attitudes about race and law enforcement.

Ferguson, a community of 21,000, is an inner-ring suburb, a place where it’s easy for the economic recovery to bypass the poor. It’s a city of 6 square miles, about 10 miles north of downtown. About two-thirds of the residents are African-American. The median income is $37,000, roughly $10,000 less than the state average. Nearly a quarter of residents live below the poverty level, compared with 15 percent statewide.

It’s part of north St. Louis county, where whites left en masse beginning over the past few decades. In the ’60s, they began rapidly leaving north city, creating one of one of the most extreme cases of “white flight” in the country. But many who remained in power are still white, including much of the law enforcement. A local lawyer said whenever she goes into courthouses in North County, all the defendants are always black, the cops always white.

The images from the day before were tinder for this fire: A young black man with his hands in the air. The graphic photo, widely circulated, of Brown slain, lying on the street. His stepfather holding a sign saying the police executed his son. Social media ablaze with photos and videos and outrage.

Brown’s own family members have said the destruction in their hometown is salt in their wounds. When peaceful protests turn to a city’s self immolation, there is no justice for anyone. What’s left is a community used to being unheard, roiling in the wake of a deadly police shooting. A powder keg of unemployment and poverty, of neglect and frustration, and those willing to exploit a tragedy for personal gain.

And this sort of reaction is all too familiar: Donna Rose, wrote in a Facebook comment on STLtoday’s public Facebook page, “I think the SWAT teams needs to open fire and kill all that r involved in the looting.” Her profile identifies her as originally from Florissant, also in North County, now in California.

When an 18-year-old, unarmed black teenager is fatally shot, there are questions any mother, any citizen will have:

Why did Brown’s uncovered, slain body lie on the ground for four hours?

Why did an officer, as yet unidentified, repeatedly fire gun shots when Brown was known to be unarmed and running away?

What happened in that police car? Why was Brown there in the first place?

All this transpired in broad daylight, with video footage, now in the hands of the authorities investigating. These answers will take time to uncover.

The explanation offered from police officials thus far, that Brown struggled for the officer’s gun, seems so at odds with the descriptions of a gentle kid, who was relieved to graduate high school and wanted to start a better life.

The circumstance of that interaction, the exchange between a young black man and police officer in that neighborhood, will be understood completely differently, given the individual’s personal life experience.

For those who have been on the receiving end of disrespect, mistrust, suspicion or brutality, the impulse is to believe Brown was brutally gunned down.

For those who are fearful anytime they cross into the city limits, most likely only for a sporting event, the young man must have done something to “deserve” his fate.

These perspectives largely fall along racial lines.

It’s a false dichotomy, a lazy narrative, to see this region as divided among racists whites and angry blacks. That’s not reality in many neighborhoods and families here. But it’s the loudest, most visible part of the discourse. Like much of America, St. Louis has an undeniable problem talking about or dealing with issues involving race.

The most economically depressed and violence-torn parts of the city and county, predominantly black neighborhoods, are largely ignored by the civic establishment, unless to explain why the city’s high rank in violent crime isn’t an accurate depiction of the region.

Until we can tell our children — and ourselves — a more honest story about race in this region, we will be left with far worse tragedies to explain.

Teen Solo World Flight

Civics for Kids

From Parade Magazine in honor of Father’s Day:

Did you know almost all American Presidents were Fathers? Do you know which President had 15 kids? Do you know who had the first child born in the White House? Or who threatened to punch a critic who made fun of his daughter’s singing?

Check out this fun article from Parade magazine

Civics for Kids / The Kids’News

What a Win!
June 17th, 2014

Photo credit: Big Stock Photo
The USA had a HUGE win over Ghana yesterday in soccer’s World Cup, underway in Brazil!
The World Cup happens only every 4 years and Ghana eliminated the U.S. from the FIFA World Cup the last TWO times … so all eyes were on this match.
It started out great for the U.S. with team captain Clint Dempsey scoring just 34 seconds in to set the tone!
With that goal, Dempsey became the first American to score at three different World Cups. Later in the game he got kicked in the face accidentally and had trouble breathing.
The U.S. led 1-0 the entire game … until 82 minutes into the 90 minute game, Ghana scored to tie it up.
But in dramatic fashion, the U.S. scored with just a few minutes left in the game when 21-year old John Brooks — on the field only because he was substituting for another player who was hurt — headed in the winning goal.
Pretty amazing to score such a clutch game-winning goal in your first ever World Cup game! Many people today are saying he has a bright future. He said he had a dream about it happening exactly that way.
He looked like he was in shock moments after but the rest of his team mates, as well as Americans everywhere, erupted in cheers!
The U.S. beat Ghana 2-1.
All that being said, the U.S. is not only not expected to win the World Cup, soccer experts say they’d be lucky to make it out of their grouping.
There are four teams in their group: Ghana, Germany, Portugal and the U.S. The top two teams will advance to the next round — and Germany and Portugal are the ones expected to move forward. But there are always upsets …
To check out more World Cup action, click here for their site.
– See more at:

Civics for Kids


Illinois flip-flops on ‘cupcake’ bill, pleasing a 12-year-old Troy girl

 Chloe Stirling, 11, poses for a photo on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 at her home in Troy, Ill. Stirling had a thriving cupcake business out of her home until the Madison County Health Department told her to stop. Photo by Huy Mach,

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.  — Illinois lawmakers have revived a so-called “cupcake bill” introduced after a young girl’s home baking operation was shut down.

The Senate on Tuesday initially defeated the measure, which paves the way for home kitchen businesses making less than $1,000 per month.

But hours later, lawmakers moved to reconsider it and a controversial amendment was withdrawn. Legislators then voted 57-0 to approve the bill.

“Let them eat cupcakes,” said Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat.

The legislation, which now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, was introduced after the Madison County Health Department shut down 12-year-old Chloe Stirling’s cupcake business in Troy.


After the initial vote, the girl said she was “kind of surprised … I learned that probably you don’t get what you want all the time, but it’s good to still try.”

Her mother, Heather Stirling, said Chloe learned a lot but called the outcome ridiculous and disappointing.

“We’re in the exact same spot that started this mess,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Among the bill’s opponents during the Senate’s first vote was Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a dairy magnate who is running for U.S. Senate. He and other critics said the amendment — which was later withdrawn — imposed overly burdensome regulations.

Oberweis said the proposed rules would have sidetracked his own entrepreneurial spirit at a young age.

“This may sound like a silly thing known as the ‘cupcake girl’ bill, but this goes to the heart of what goes on in Springfield,” Oberweis said. “It’s an example of how we are Illinois-ing — killing — entrepreneurship among kids.”

The measure as approved requires sellers to tell consumers the product was made in a home.


The bill is HB5354.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Let’s ask the Kids …

Adults have mixed opinons on blogs and in articles surrounding the recent Coast Guard rescue of an ill infant and her family. Let’s ask the kids what they think. Would you want to live like this? Is it exciting or scary? What would school be like?