The Research Project


administration-1846270_1920Kat and I have studied American Government this year. Our current focus is on the executive branch. The concept needed reinforcing that “federal” doesn’t always mean “located in Washington, D.C.” There are federal, state and local offices of various government agencies in our own hometown.

The textbook we’ve been using was published about 20 years ago. For the most part, it has been wonderful. Just avoiding the Common Core garbage makes it worth its weight in gold. The value and uniqueness of the Constitution is not watered down, and there is no blatant editorializing among its chapters. Just the facts, for the most part.

Due to its age, I have tweaked a few assignments. One short-term research project directed students to use the blue pages of the phone book to research branches of the federal government located in their city. Where are these offices located? What services do they offer? What Cabinet Department do they fall under? Are they independent agencies?

Kathryn located a very skinny modern version of what’s left of the phone directory in print. This gave me reason to pause and reminisce about the “good old days” of phone books, before modern technology meant a reference was out of date almost as soon as it was printed. Back then, every number you could possibly want was within easy reach of even the most technologically challenged. If you could read, you could find a number.

Plus, Grandma had ready-made booster seats for the kiddie table at holiday meals. Child too short to see over the top of the table? Stick the Yellow Pages in his seat and plop him down on top of it. Problem solved.

Back to our situation, I lamented the loss of the blue pages, specifically. Such an incredible resource right there in the middle of the phone book. Government offices and agencies were organized alphabetically by name and level of government.

Surely, I thought, there must be something similar online. Surely, I thought, this would be just another mundane bit of work in the grand scheme of things. My teen would learn how to use the internet to determine where some of our government offices are located and how to look things up should she need this info in the future. Nothing too exciting, right?

This morning’s one-sided conversation over the kitchen table and school books went something like this.

Kat: “There appears to be no blue pages online that I could find. Looking up information on specific government agencies in your town is kind of confusing. You have to know a little bit about where you want to go and what you need before you start. It’s not all listed in one place for you like in the phone book. You have to start with a particular agency and go from there. Sometimes it’s not clear whether the website is for an office located here or somewhere else.

“I did learn that you can get a rap sheet from the FBI here in Mobile. One on yourself or on someone else, I guess, if you wanted one. Oh, by the way, I somehow accidentally downloaded a PDF off the CIA’s website. It seems to be a form used to report counterfeiting. So if you get a call or something from them, it’s probably related to that.”

Me: [Insert cricket chirp…]

Lord, help us.

©2015-2017 Our Lives In Stories

The best laid plans of mice and men
Adapted from To a Mouse by Robert Burns.


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