Thursday’s Tip: Cabinet Making is Not Just for Carpenters

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Do your students ever ask about how the U.S. President keeps track of all of the information simultaneously occurring in the United States and around the world? He assembles a Cabinet of highly experienced leaders in each of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs. As Presidents’ Day approaches, let’s help students take a deeper look inside the decision-making process of the presidency. Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Students’ understanding of the decision-making process in Washington D.C. typically centers on elected officials and their roles in the three branches of government. They often fall short of understanding that there are many un-elected officials who greatly influence the decisions made in Washington. Taking a deeper look into the members of a President’s Cabinet can reveal a lot about why the President makes certain decisions. Students can gain a deeper understanding of our democracy, the process of decision-making, the impact of decisions, leadership qualities, and the interdependence of each department. Students can also gain a deeper understanding of the impact Cabinet Members have had throughout history. For example, they might investigate and debate the strong criticism the Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, received during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There are numerous interdisciplinary units that can be developed around this topic. This might even lead to students reflecting on their own process for decision-making and who they should select to be a part of their Cabinets.

Cara Wylie is an area instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.