Back in May President Jimmy Carter once again criticized President George W. Bush by stating, “I think as far as the adverse impact on the nations around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.” It wasn’t the first time President Carter had criticized Bush. Over the last several months Carter has expressed his viewpoint regarding the treatment of Hamas by the Bush administration, the use of military tribunals, and for blurring church and state. Of course Carter isn’t the only ex-president to say something about a current administration over the years, but clearly Carter has ended a long standing tradition that ex-presidents keep silent on the performance of current ones.
I wonder if Mr. Carter wanted to rethink his comments from May after seeing his approval ratings in the Wall Street Journal's graph representations for every president since 1946? I won’t bore you here with the details of how the data was collected, but it is posted at the Wall Street Journal site in their online article titled How the Presidents Stack Up.
This is a really interesting look at the presidents from Truman forward. As seen here the presentation begins with all of the presidents on the same graph. To look at individual presidents go to the site and click on the “previous” or “next” button or click on the individual president names.
Many have weighed in on their own interpretation of the data, but the concensus is Americans like their presidents at the beginning of their terms much better than at the end with amazingly one exception. President Clinton finished higher than when he started. Apparently being impeached doesn’t have anything to do with approval in modern day America.
Also the current Bush ratings are low, but he isn’t as low as Truman, Nixon, or even Carter...yet.
Truman shows the largest fluctuation of highs and lows, and even though Reagan looks flat he’s been treated much different in the here and now. Actually, when I teach the various presidents I enjoy teaching and learning about the various details concerning Truman. Does this mean future generations really decide how well a president did or didn’t do?
These graphs could be used in interesting ways in the classroom. When I taught fifth grade the curriculum covered Reconstruction through to the president day. By the time we fought World War II it would be late in the year and I generally ended by dividing the content into presidential administrations from Truman on.
One of the things I would do with this online tool is I would delete the individual report information other than the graph itself. I would divide the class into groups at the end of our study of an administration such as Carter and give them all an altered graph. The group’s task would be to review the entire administration and analyze why the graph indicates highs and lows.
After the discussion each student would plot administrative and historical events on their individual graphs. They would not have to plot something just because the majority felt a certain way. They could deviate from the group if they felt strongly about an event, so that their graphs would be more of an individual process.
At the end of the plotting we would post the graphs in the room and students could compare and contrast. Where did their thinking converge? Where did it take different paths? Why?
Finally, I would allow students to see the Wall Street Journal results and a final comparison could be made. Students would reflect on their learning by turning in a reflective piece of writing with their graph.
Many thanks to the Wall Street Journal for activating my “how can I use this in the classroom” brain and many thanks to my fellow Georgian, Pastor Bill over at Provocative Church for providing the clue that this article existed.