Open Data, Public Records, and You

1.  What is the government? What is it good for?

Discuss different forms of government. Consider its purpose. Encourage conversation about the nature of democracy.

        Question to discuss:        Who are the people working in government?

From where does the government derive its powers?

2. How can you participate?  

Go through other elements of civic engagement: voting, paying taxes, showing up at town hall meetings, etc. Weigh the importance of each, considering the benefit to society versus the cost to one’s self.

        Question to discuss:         What responsibility does one have to participate in government?

                                What responsibility does one have to challenge government?

3. What is “transparency”?

Question to discuss:         What are the limitations of “transparency”?

                        Is privacy important in a “transparent” society?

4. What is the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act was a signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 4, 1966. It states that the public has a right to the records of the government.

Question to discuss:         For what reasons might the government be reluctant to increase



5. Do state and local government have to follow FOIA?

Each state has its own version of a public records law. There are differences in the amount of time students have to respond.

        Question to discuss:         For what reasons might the local government be reluctant or unable to

increase transparency?

6. What is “open data”?

Talk about government releases of data.

Question to discuss: What’s the difference between government data and other data?

7. What’s the difference between open data and public records?

Consider how proactive disclosure versus specific inquiry can help or hinder citizen engagement.

        Question to discuss: How can the same information be used multiple ways?

8. Why is access to public records important? Is it important?

        Question to discuss: In what ways are records created in the environment around you?

9. Where do you fit in?

        Question to discuss: Can students participate in the government?

                                What would you ask if you could ask the governmental Powers-That-Be