Levin Center Launches Learning by Hearings Classroom Resources that Tap Congressional Oversight to Engage H.S. Students in History and Civics

The Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy at Wayne State Law School* this week unveiled its civics education platform, Learning by Hearings, by making available on its website, materials for high school social studies classrooms.

Learning by Hearings (LbH) is a collection of lesson plans and classroom resources designed for use in high school U.S. History and Civics classrooms in Michigan. Created by certified and experienced educators, the LbH materials are now available free of charge to all Michigan education professionals. The lesson plans and related content present historic congressional investigations, including inquiries into the causes of the Great Depression, abuses of the oversight power by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and the Senate investigation into the Watergate scandal, that allow students to engage with primary source documents, role play hearings, and learn about vital topics in civics and American history.

"This week’s launch of Learning by Hearings means that teachers and students across Michigan now have access to lessons that unlock the educational power of a legislative hearing,” said Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center. “Learning by Hearings enables students to immerse themselves in pivotal episodes of American history and core concepts in civics, while building their research, critical thinking, and speaking skills. Thanks to support from the State of Michigan, the Ralph Wilson Jr. Foundation, and others, these lessons and teacher training resources are free, so every district can access this powerful learning opportunity.”

In early 2023, the NAEP National Report Card showed declines in civic learning across the country. Concerned by these findings, the Levin Center wants to play a role in strengthening civil discourse, knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, and overall civic engagement of young citizens. By examining U.S. history through the lens of the congressional oversight process, students can learn about bipartisan fact-finding, investigative work, and historic examples of collaboration, all lessons that are necessary to build students into informed citizens.

Since 2018, the Levin Center has supported civic education outside the classroom through its partnership with the YMCA’s Youth in Government (YiG) program. Each year the Levin Center creates a mock legislative hearing experience that allows students to role-play an investigative hearing as part of their participation in the twice-annual YiG state conference. The Levin Center supports similar programs in several other states.

For more information and access to our resources, visit the Levin Center website.


*While the Levin Center is affiliated with Wayne State University Law School, its views do not present the institutional views, if any, of Wayne State University or the Law School.

Contacts: Lauren Jasinski, ljasinski@wayne.edu and Kyle Goedert, kgoedert@wayne.edu


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