Addressing the Government Shutdown With Students

Congressional Committee

For the first time in 17 years, the U.S. government has shut down due to a Congressional impasse over the federal budget. Many students will have questions about the causes and implications of this historic and far-reaching event. We encourage you to take this opportunity to help them understand some of the many factors that have led to this situation, and to reassure them that some parts of government will continue to function despite the shutdown.

Students of all ages may benefit from this graphic from The New York Times detailing exactly how many jobs will be furloughed (an excellent vocabulary word); what sectors will be the hardest hit; and what services will remain functioning. Younger students may be reassured, for instance, that animals at the National Zoo will still be cared for; air traffic controllers will keep monitoring aircraft; and astronauts on the International Space Station will continue to perform their duties. Older students may discuss why certain job functions have been selected for furlough, while others have not.

To address questions of why the government shutdown is happening, we recommend sharing with students our varied resources on issues of budgeting and the workings of the U.S. government. These include our topics on Needs and Wants and Branches of Government on BrainPOP Jr; Budgets, Taxes, and Branches of Government on BrainPOP; and Budget Hero on GameUP, which deals specifically with making decisions about the U.S. federal budget.

For more advanced students, educators may elect to discuss one of the root causes of the current Congressional disagreement, namely the voicing of dissent among some lawmakers about a recently-passed federal law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This law is described briefly in our Barack Obama movie, and students can read more on related Congressional gridlock with our FYI informational text. Students may also benefit from a review of the process of creating and confirming the Constitutionality of a new law, whether through our How a Bill Becomes a Law, Supreme Court, or Presidential Power topics or the educational games Law Craft, Supreme Decision, and Executive Command on our GameUP portal. Finally, we recommend one of our newest topics, Conflict Resolution, which may put into some context the arguments playing out between our elected officials—and which offers suggestions for how to deal with disputes in daily life.