Editor's Notebook

By Simpson. Michael | Social Education, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Editor's Notebook


Simpson. Michael, Social Education


When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, the U.S. population was believed to number about 3 million. This October the U.S. population is expected to cross a new threshold one hundred times greater--the 300 million mark. In this issue of Social Education, in addition to our usual range of features, we present a set of articles related to the new population milestone, and offer some suggestions for teaching during the week of Constitution Day (September 17).

On Constitution Day, we commemorate the achievements of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention more than 200 years ago, who believed that the new nation, though small on the world scale, would be a model to others in the conduct of its affairs. In the Teaching with Documents feature that opens this issue, Lee Ann Potter outlines the important role played by delegates' estimates of the size and whereabouts of the U.S. population as they allocated representation in Congress. The featured document is an estimate dating to 1785, found in the records of New Jersey delegate David Brearly, that the U.S. population numbered 3 million; this was found to be an underestimate when the first U.S. census was taken in 1790 and showed the population to be 3-9 million inhabitants. Potter's teaching suggestions show students the challenges faced by the delegates as they searched for the best formula for political representation of the population.

Three features in this issue look at different dimensions of the 300 million population mark. Judith Waldrop and Kimberly Crews, of the U.S. Census Bureau, compare the U.S. population today with that at the time of the last milestone-200 million in 1967. Their article highlights the expansion of education since that time, the change in the number of working women, the increased diversity of the population, and the growth of the West.

In his internet column, C. Frederick Risinger identifies websites dealing with population topics that will appeal to web-savvy students and have significant educational value. Teachers will find these sites especially useful in identifying past, present and future population trends and prompting debate on issues arising from the rapid growth of the population of the United States.

In our Looking at the Law column, Sonya Olds Som and Eileen Momblanco examine one of these issues--immigration reform. Focusing on the question of amnesty, they examine the theory and practice of laws regulating immigrant workers and highlight a significant development in litigation over immigration--civil claims brought against companies hiring undocumented workers under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. A related teaching activity by James H. Landman complements their article.

In a lesson plan for Constitution Day, Eli Lesser leads us on a journey back to the intellectual world which influenced those who framed the Constitution. Students review the different trends of political thought to which delegates were exposed and consider how these perspectives affected specific articles of the Constitution. …

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