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Poptential™ Free U.S. Government Curriculum from Certell Teaches Students About U.S. Debt


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Poptential™, an award-winning family of free social studies course packages, offers instructors a variety of content to help students learn about the national debt using pop culture media to engage students. Click to tweet.

On January 19, 2023, the United States hit the national debt ceiling, the limit on how much national debt Congress allows the treasury to incur. Experts predict that Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling by summer in order to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts.

“Increasing the debt ceiling isn’t new, but this time there are serious debates taking place about the need to reign in spending at the same time,” said Julie Smitherman, a former social studies teacher and director of content at Certell, Inc., the nonprofit behind Poptential. “The debt ceiling will be in the news this spring. The topic could be dry for high school students, so Poptential helps explain it using pop culture references, including video clips from the animated sitcom The Simpsons.”

Poptential’s free U.S. Government eBook curriculum, Bell Ringers, and digital media clips feature lessons and historical content to help high school students understand why the debt ceiling is important, what is involved in the federal budgeting process, and how today’s deficit spending negatively impacts future generations.

Why the government needs a borrowing limit: For the first time in our nation’s history, America’s national debt has exceeded $31 trillion as the government spends more than it takes in from tax revenue. In the eBook’s Module 11 mini-lesson titled “Government Debt and Debt Ceiling,” Poptential brings to life the government’s deficit spending and need for a borrowing limit using a video clip from The Simpsons. The mini-lesson also offers more information about the national debt and debt limit in this video clip.

How the government determines its budget: In Module 11.4 on Budgeting, this video clip explains the federal budgeting process, government revenue, and expenditure, plus federal spending concepts such as budget surplus, deficit, and a balanced budget.

Kicking the can down the road: The Poptential Bell Ringer “What’s a Trillion Dollars Among Friends?” features a video clip that highlights the tradeoffs of government borrowing and a video clip from The Simpsons that showcases how current government borrowing shifts the burden onto the next generation.

The United States was debt free once: On January 8, 1835, the United States national debt hit $0 for the first and only time in history. To teach some of the current issues on debt limits, taxes, and spending beyond one’s income, this humorous Poptential Bell Ringer video highlights fiscal irresponsibility.

Poptential course packages include everything instructors need to teach a subject, including lessons, e-books, bell ringers, quizzes, and tests. The lessons use a variety of pop culture media to illustrate concepts, including those taken from sitcoms, movies, animations, cartoons, late-night shows, and other sources. The curriculum is standards-based and developed by teachers.

Poptential is available via a digital platform that allows students to access lessons even in poor bandwidth environments. Course packages in American History, World History, U.S. Government/Civics, and Economics are available free at www.poptential.org.

About Certell, Inc.

Certell is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to foster a generation of independent thinkers. More than 100,000 users from throughout the United States have signed up for Certell’s Poptential™ family of free social studies courses. Certell course packages have won a number of awards, including EdTech Digest Awards for Curriculum and Instruction Solution, Tech&Learning Best Tool for Back to School, Tech Edvocate Awards, Bronze Award of Excellence from the National Association of Economics Educators, and Civvys Awards. More information is available at poptential.org.

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