For the Library’s education staff, one of the most rewarding experiences of November’s National Council for the Social Studies conference was our presentation on Congress.gov. This new and growing Web site from the Library of Congress is the authoritative source of current U.S. legislative information.
In the November 2013 issue of Social Education, the journal of NCSS, our “Sources and Strategies” article demonstrates one way in which Congress.gov can be used to illuminate controversial public issues from the nation’s past as well.
The article highlights a number of images from the early 20th century that the National Child Labor Committee used in their campaign to abolish child labor, including photographs by Lewis Hine. Although today these dramatic photos are often viewed as art objects, the NCLC used them as tools–as persuasive elements that would help them make their case against child labor in the public sphere and in the halls of Congress.
The legislative tracker that accompanies each bill in Congress.gov provides an excellent tool to help students track the progress of a bill through each stage of the legislative process. In the “Sources and Strategies” article, we show that students can also use the steps from the tracker to organize their research on a past piece of legislation, such as 1916’s Keating-Owen bill, which sought to restrict child labor.
By searching the Library’s database of historic newspapers, Chronicling America, students can find articles that document each stage of a past bill’s journey through the process, and can discover the dramas and controversies that often lie behind such bland-seeming labels as “Passed Senate” and “Became Law”.
If you’ve used the NCLC child labor photos, or Congress.gov’s legislative tracker, how have they led to new discoveries among your students?