Wednesday, January 5, 2022

For Which We Stand: How Our Government Works and Why It Matters - Jeff Foster

Summary:  If you don't participate, you can't complain.  That's the motto of author and longtime Marjory Stoneman Douglas AP Government teacher Jeff Foster.  And now, more than ever, it's so important for everyone to understand how the government works and how we can stay informed and get involved.  

This book is a comprehensive and accessible guide that answers questions like:

What is the Constitution?

- What are the branches of the government?

- What is the Electoral College?

- How do you vote?

- Why do we have political parties?

Plus, discover the complete backstory on some of our government's most important moments, like why we wrote the Declaration of Independence and how people since then have worked with -- and protests against -- the government to improve the lives of all Americans.  

With tons of illustrations -- including infographics and political caricatures -- and a chapter on how you can make a difference in your own community, this book is a must-have for any kid citizen!

(Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

SPECIAL NOTE: For Which We Stand was published in September of 2020, prior to the presidential election and, consequently, does not include any mention of the election results or any events that followed.  

My Review:  At this time last year, I was incredibly worried about the state of my nation.  The results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election were in and President Trump was alleging the election had been 'stolen,' claiming that the Vice President had the power to refuse to certify the electoral votes in front of Congress. I was even more concerned the next day, when the U.S. Capitol was breached by protestors intent on subverting this very event.  Over the course of the next few days and weeks, it became increasingly clear that many citizens (myself included) lacked sufficient understanding of our nation's electoral process and laws that govern it. Since that day, I have looked for ways to become more informed about how our government functions.  

Enter For Which We Stand: How Our Government Works and Why It Matters, which has received glowing reviews from New York Times and Kirkus Reviews and been touted online by several well-educated women who are very familiar with our nation's government* It was written by a government teacher who offers a pro-democracy and pro-American government perspective, with one caveat.  He does not assert that our government is perfect, but rather that it is set up to be changeable and that we should know and understand the process for making those changes.

For Which We Stand offers an invaluable crash course in government, written in accessible, everyday language.  From a structural standpoint, it is colorful, engaging, and easy-to-navigate with a kid-friendly format. It's target audience is older kids and teens, but it would even be amazing for an adult who wanted to have a basic understanding about government without having to slog through a stodgy old textbook. 

For Which We Stand is only 170ish pages, but I learned so much.  Here is a shortlist of the topics covered:

  • The different types of government
  • Various founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc)
  • The Amendments and How to amend the Constitution
  • The branches of government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), their different powers, checks, and balances
  • The separation of church and state.  
  • Political parties -- the advantages and disadvantages of a two-party system
  • The pros and cons of the Electoral College. 
  • The powers of the president. 
  • The list of the different presidents and the order of succession.
  • The various roles and responsibilities that surround the presidency, including the VP, the First Lady (or First Gentleman).
  • The difference between city, county, and state governments, and different responsibilities.
  • How to run for political office campaigning primaries and caucuses.
  • How voting works (including who can vote, voter suppression, gerrymandering, how to vote, the different kinds of elections, and how the Electoral College works.  
  • The composition of Congress and congressional powers.
  • How a bill becomes a law (with infographics).
  • The Supreme Court (and some of its ground-breaking cases)
  • The Presidential Cabinet and the various departments that make up the Cabinet.
  • What each person can do to be an active citizen (e.g voting, volunteering for a political campaign, educating fellow citizens, setting achievable goals, contacting legislators, staying engaged, etc.) 
  • and more!

For Which We Stand also has a variety of helpful infographics, lists, and timelines, a 12-page glossary and index to make topics easily searchable.  I loved every little thing about it -- especially the part where I learned useful information and it didn't make my head explode. 

In a time of rampant divisiveness and rhetoric, For Which We Stand deals in positivity, encouragement, and cold, hard facts.  The author also does something very few people seem to be capable of and manages to talk about government and politics without using inflammatory language or being aggressively political.  The entire book has a very positive feel that encourages readers to learn how their government works, to get involved in the process, make a difference, and change things if they don't like what they see.  Long story short, For Which We Stand is a brilliant resource for anyone who hopes to learn more about how our government was formed, how it functions, how it is sustained, and why it all matters. 

*Sharon McMahon (aka America's Government Teacher) and the exemplary women of The American Moms (aka Andrea and Brittany).

My Rating:  5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:   If you are allergic to facts (and prefer deeply misleading bias) you might want to steer clear. There is mention of a few issues that some readers might find controversial. Impeachment is defined and mentioned, listing past presidents who have been impeached.  Voter suppression is discussed in terms of historical examples and current challenges.  Gay marriage rights are only briefly mentioned in a listing of pivotal Supreme Court cases.

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