As a former political science professor at Cornell College, Congressman Dave Loebsack probably would have had no problem stepping into West High’s AP government class and leading a lecture.
Loebsack did attend the AP government course – taught by Brady Shutt – Wedneday morning, but on this occasion, he was there to learn. “I want you guys to tell me about what you’re doing,” he said.
As co-chair of the 21st Century Skills Caucus, Loebsack visited West High and two Muscatine High Schools on Wednesday. The 21st Century Skills Caucus is a bipartisan committee formed to provide a forum for educational leaders, advocates and public and private sectors to brief congress about the importance of 21st century skills – critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication – to promote college and career readiness for students.
West High was selected as an example of the incorporation of those skills and Loebsack stopped by Shutt’s course to see how those skills were being implemented.
“It was really great to see how the theory was put into practice,” he said.
Wednesday’s lesson dealt with campaign finance reform and the various ways individuals can contribute to politicians, political parties and causes. Rather than lecture about the subject, Shutt broke the class of juniors and seniors into small groups, gave them a scenario and had them present to the class how they would contribute to their party or candidate.
“You get an identity” Shutt said. “If you were this person, what would you do to get the most bang for your buck?”
One group was a college student with only $25 dollars, while other groups were a former White House advisor or a highly paid celebrity such as Oprah Winfrey or Chuck Norris.
Afterward, Loebsack noted the smaller groups promoted more participation from all of the members.
“You’re encouraged to speak more freely and more often,” he said. “It’s much easier to be in the background in a larger group.”
West High principal Jerry Arganbright, who sat in on the class, said the school is always “trying to make certain our kids are exposed to the latest and most dynamic opportunities to be successful.”
While Loebsack is currently locked in a re-election campaign against Republican challenger John Archer, the congressman said Wednesday’s visit was purely a congressional visit, not a campaign stop. Loebsack has recently introduced legislation to reauthorize No Child Left Behind and hopes the 21st century skills displayed at West High are incorporated into classrooms across the country.
“It really is about making certain we do everything we can to prepare students for the 21st century,” he said.