January 24, 2022

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Jan. 6 Panel Faces Difficult Questions as Anniversary of Capitol Riot Approaches’

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Featured Article: “Jan. 6 Panel Faces Difficult Questions as Anniversary of Capitol Riot Approaches” by Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane

On Jan. 6, 2021, rioters attacked the United States Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

At least seven people died in connection with the riot, dozens more were injured and hundreds of workers in the Capitol were shaken and traumatized, further fracturing an increasingly partisan Congress — and country.

In June, the House of Representatives created a select committee to investigate what its organizing resolution called “the facts, circumstances and causes relating to the Jan. 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack.” Since then, it has interviewed more than 300 witnesses, including the rioters themselves and White House officials close to President Donald J. Trump, and it is sorting through more than 35,000 documents.

In this lesson, you will learn more about the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 and the challenges it faces. Then, in a Going Further activity, you will act as a congressional committee member and create your own report for the American public (or your school community) about what happened that day and what we can learn from it.

Take a few minutes to reflect on the events and meaning of Jan. 6. Then, respond to the following prompts in writing or in discussion with a partner:

  • What do you remember about Jan. 6? What moments or images stand out to you?

  • What emotions did you experience as you heard, watched or read about the attack on the Capitol? Did you talk to friends or family members about what the nation was experiencing? What did you say?

  • Has your perspective changed over the past year?

  • What questions does Jan. 6 raise for you about democracy, justice or power? What else would you like to learn about that day?

Read the featured article, and then answer the following questions:

1. What is the purpose of the “Jan. 6 panel,” which is also referred to as a “congressional committee” and the “House select committee” in the article?

2. What challenges does the committee face in investigating the events of Jan. 6? What are at least two of the “difficult questions” they are confronting, according to the article?

3. How do Republicans and Democrats see the role of the committee and the events of Jan. 6 differently? Why have a majority of Republicans sought to downplay the attack on the Capitol, according to the article?

4. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of two Republicans on the committee, has said “there’s absolutely no question that it was a dereliction of duty” on the part of President Trump. To what is she referring? What evidence supports this claim?

5. The committee is aiming to release a final report before the midterm elections in November. Make a prediction: What do you think will be the outcome of the committee’s investigation and report? What impact will it have? Will it help to protect the United States from threats to its elections and democracy?

1. Create your own Jan. 6 committee.

Nine members of Congress sit on the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. The committee’s work is to:

  • investigate the facts, circumstances and causes relating to the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol;

  • identify, review and evaluate the causes of and the lessons learned from the attack on the Capitol;

  • issue a final report to the House containing such findings, conclusions and recommendations for corrective measures.

Imagine your class is tasked with creating its own committee to investigate the events of Jan. 6. In a small group, analyze the evidence, document what happened and why, and then make recommendations. Then, pull together your findings into a report or presentation you can share with your class, school or community.

To conduct your investigation, you can draw upon The New York Times’s multimedia coverage of the Capitol riot and its aftermath below, or you might want to look at The Times’s U.S. Capitol Riot Topics Page:

Option 2: Share your thoughts and opinions: Is America’s democracy at risk?

What are the lessons of Jan. 6? Was the Capitol riot an anomaly in political life in America or a warning sign that the country’s democracy is in danger? Are you concerned about the integrity of the 2022 midterm elections or the 2024 presidential election? Add your own comments in our related Student Opinion question “How Worried Should We Be About Our Democracy?” and then read comments from teenagers around the world.

Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.

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