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The Future of the Social Security System:

Will it Accommodate Future Generations of Americans?




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What an exciting time to be able to have students be involved in American Issues and Economics courses. There are so many topics that students can get "now" information to pursue engaged learning and develop problem solving skills while communicating by telecommunications. It is also an election year, but any time would be good to develop a solution for "The Future of the Social Security System". This unit will integrate social studies, language arts, and math for juniors and seniors in a high school. During the first quarter of this year, students have been involved in mini-projects in cooperative groups which gives them a good foundation in working in teams to accomplish a common goal.

Technology is a vital part of this proposal to connect with another high school, communicate with the other in school class by email when not meeting, find the most updated information about what is going on in the committee, and to communicate with the representatives (mentors) weekly.

They also have learned how to use the program Inspiration, which can provide visuals for brainstorming their own plans in decision making.

The learning working environment will include the classroom and the media center. In the classroom there are four computers with Internet access and a projection device connected to one of the computers. There are also research stations with Internet access in the media center that can be scheduled for team use. The timeline for this project will take place in October 1998 and last approximately four weeks. There will be 50 students involved with the project, 26 in the American Issues class with Mrs. Sweder and 18 in the Economics Class with Mrs. OíConnell from Grundy County.   Students meet in class 54 minutes per day. Once a week because of block scheduling, the teams will meet for a double period.

The project is introduced in each class in this manner on a Friday!

Opening: How many of you are presently working in a part time job? How many of you work over 30 hours per week? Do you know how much you give to Social Security? Bring in your last two check stubs on Monday and let us take a collective count. When you come into class on Monday, please look at the team selection board to find out who is on your team and sit with them at the beginning of class on Monday!

Monday: The students come into class on Monday, and check the team board. Even though there are a few groans and laughs about who they are with, they quickly select a location for their team headquarters to reside for this project. The students have all ready used this design arrangement and they settle in quickly.

Problem is presented: The principals in each building offer the students an opportunity and a challenge. They say, "How many of you brought in your check stubs?" About of the class raised their hands. In your teams, figure the percent given to Social Security from your check. Then we will have a report out from each team. The teams calculate the results and a report out is given, with Mrs. Sweder and Mrs. O'Connnell recording the results.

One of the students says, " I never knew so much was taken out for Social Security. My dad says that you will never see that money again, ever in your life."

The principals continue on with the proposal.

"That is a possibility. Social security will go broke by the year 2025, if it remains as it is. An Advisory Council on Social Security can not agree on what to do to extend and expand Social Security. You are part of the Advisory Councils decision making team. Some of you will be working with State representatives, Jerry Weller from Illinois.  You also will be collaborating with another high school in an adjoining region.

" Jerry Weller, our representative will include your ideas and information in his Washington update. Then you will be part of the presentation team at a town meeting to be held on October 29, in Will County. At this town meeting, a representative from each of your teams will become a member of the advisory committee. Other students will play the roll of Mayor and Village Board Members and offer recommendations to Jerry Weller to take to Washington DC.  Each team will be paired up with a team  from the adjoining region to make a decision of what to do."

The teachers add. "You have several plans to choose from."

Toes first: The simplest at least risky plan would maintain current benefits and seek higher returns by investing 40 percent of the trust fund in stock and bond markets. Protect the American Family.

Knee Deep: A more adventuresome plan would set up mandatory savings accounts. Current benefits would be scaled back.

Over their Heads: Personal Security Accounts would be set up using forty percent of the fund. Very risky!

Design Your own:You can also decide to develop your own plan.


Before you begin your work, in your teams, let's do a little story boarding. How do you think your team will make a decision on which view to take or to develop your own view?

Students responses:

Mrs. Sweder and Mrs. O'Connell:  "Those are good beginning ideas.  I will post your knowledge and background about Social Security as you discuss them in your teams. This is how I recommend we proceed. Find the 3 x 5 cards at your headquarters. Each one of you write down one item that you know about Social Security. Select a team leader and recorder. Go around and let everybody contribute. Each team should discuss the contributing facts and decide on three that they want to contribute to the whole class. If you want to set up your teams in a different method that is okay. Just remember, I need three facts from each team by the end of 15 minutes."

As the facts are reported out, students can relate the importance of it to their own lives. Each team will need to view the facts and decide which might be relevant to solving the problem. Some teams may have to research more information for a better understanding before they make those decisions.

In addition to the Internet, students will be able to use electronic research materials both on and off line, and a selection of utility software to summarize their position.

Within the next few days, Will County teams are matched up with the Grundy County teams and collaboration begins.  Teams will have two weeks to decide on a direction and research the information, one week to make a decision and develop a plan, and one week to prepare their presentations.

Assessment is ongoing by keeping journals, mindmapping in an electronic format, presenting an oral/electronic presentation and being participants at the town meeting. Articles will be written and sent to the representatives.



Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office, Friends of Fermilab, United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, and North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (NCRTEC) which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).

 Author(s): Lucianne Sweder     lsweder@pda.k12.il.us

                Robbin O'Connell     roconnell@pda.k12.il.us
                Professional Development Alliance
                A Regional Office of Education for Will, Grundy-Kendall Counties
                Joliet, Illinois
Created: May 17, 1998- Updated: May 19, 1998
URL: /lincon/w98/projects/yourfolder/scenario.html