By Veronica Carter
In classrooms across the country, students learn about the role citizens play in democracy. And in about a dozen classrooms, they're hearing firsthand from their teachers, who got to go to Washington, D.C.
They were selected for the trip by the National Education Association (NEA), after writing letters to the U.S. Senate asking for a hearing and vote on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
Patrick Chambers, who teaches government at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis, says his kids are taught that being a good citizen requires cooperation, mutual respect and the ability to compromise.
He says that's what lawmakers should be doing.
"What are we supposed to say to our students?" asks Chambers. "The way this behavior is occurring is basically forcing us to change the lesson in which we explain the process, because never before had there been so much partisan politics involved."
Chambers says while in the nation's capital, he and fellow teachers asked for a meeting with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but he turned them down. McConnell wants the nomination process to happen after a new president takes office.
Just because someone they know was asked to participate, Chambers says, the students are learning that citizens do have a voice in government.
"You see the White House on television or movies, and it seems really far way," he says. "'I'm just one of 330-plus million people in this country. They don't care about me, my vote doesn't count.'"
Chambers says students are encouraged to work together and do their jobs, even when they aren't friends or have disagreements. He says they're not learning that lesson by watching their elected leaders.
The NEA also has launched an online petition asking the Senate to act on the president's nominee.