American Government

US Gov

INTRODUCTION: 

You may be asking yourself why you should have to care about American Government and why you have to take this class. To address these concerns let me ask you several questions. Have you or your parents ever wondered where the money that is deducted from yours or their paycheck is spent on? or how the amount to deduct was chosen? Ever wonder how some elected official got into office? and finally have you ever wondered what it is exactly that people in government do or how to become one? All these questions will be answered and more throughout your time in this course.

My American Government class is taught by stages and steps that I have constructed to address both the California State standards and the new Common Core State Standards. Click on the links below to proceed to the different American Government Stages.

William BlackStone - Commentaries STAGE 1

OUR FOUNDATIONS

OUR FOUNDATIONS

GOAL: California State Standard 12.1- Students explain the fundamental principals and moral values of American Democracy as expressed in the U.S. Constitution and other essential documents of American Democracy.

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STEP #1 

OBJECTIVE: 12.1.1 – Analyze the influence of ancient Greek, Roman, English, and leading European  political thinkers such as John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Niccolò  Machiavelli, and William Blackstone on the development of American government.

Sample Lesson #1 – Before we can really tackle 12.1.1 Students will be introduced to thinking about government by listing verbally what services they know government provides in 2013 U.S.A. I will write the student responses on the white board.

Sample Lesson #2 – Students will get out a regular piece of notebook paper and fold it into three sections. Their paper will look like this:

Name:

Date:

Period:

Federal (Left Column) State (Center Column) Local (Right Column)

Sample Lesson #3 – Students will take the written responses from the board and put them under what level of government they think provides those services.

Sample Lesson #4 – The students and I will go through their responses and how they sorted them and make sure they are under the right column.

Sample Lesson #5 – Now that students have seen that government does in fact connect to their lives we will be constructing a Class Constitution. To begin this students will brainstorm issues that affect classroom learning and we will list them on the board. Students should consider 21st Century Education issues in addition to those they are already familiar with. For example check out this video link:

TrinikidYou Have to Watch This by Trinikid. Trinikid is an internationally recognized blogger from Trinidad.

Sample Lesson #6 – Students will now be broken into groups. Each of the student groups will develop a written rule that addresses the five most important classroom issues according to the wishes of the class  as  a whole. The rules must be precise and have an appropriate consequence to the rule if it is broken. I will create an online poll with proposed rules by the students on it. Students will have 24 hours to vote on the rules. The top 5 rules will comprise our Classroom Constitution.  All present students will sign a finalized copy of the Classroom Constitution.

Sample Lesson #7 – During the Classroom Constitution activity I am sure some students noticed that certain peers of theirs stood out more than the others and contributed key ideas or word phrasing the significantly impacted our Classroom Constitution. This was the same case with formation of the United States government and men such as John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Niccolò  Machiavelli, and William Blackstone. In Task #10 students will look at the following quotes by these men and see if they can determine what piece of American Government they influenced.

John LockeJohn Locke

“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.” – John Locke

“Government has no other end, but the preservation of property” – John Locke

Charles-Louis MontesquieuCharles-Louis Montesquieu

“To become truly great, one must stand with the people, not above them”– Charles-Louis Montesquieu

“The wickedness of mankind makes it necessary for the law to suppose them better than they really are” – Charles-Louis Montesquieu

Niccolò  MachiavelliNiccolò  Machiavelli

“Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it” – Niccolò  Machiavelli

Sir_William_Blackstone_from_NPGWilliam Blackstone

“It is better 10 guilty escape than one innocent suffer”– William Blackstone

“So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community.” – William Blackstone

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STEP #2

OBJECTIVE: 12.1.2 – Discuss the character of American democracy and its promise and perils as articulated by Alexis de Tocqueville.

Primary Document – Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America (1835)

Sample Lesson #1 – Copy down the quotes from “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville. Make sure to skip 3-4 lines between quotes. Then identify which quotes are about the “Promise” of American Democracy and which are about the “perils” of American Democracy.

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”  

“Democracy extends of sphere of individual freedom… and attaches all possible value to each man”

“The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through.” 

“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.” 

Sample Lesson #2 – After having written down each quote and identifying each by either “promise” or “peril” you will now explain why you think each quote is about “promise” or “peril” in two to three sentences.

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STEP #3

OBJECTIVE: 12.1.3 – Explain how the U.S. Constitution reflects a balance between the classical republican concern with promotion of the public good and the classical liberal concern with protecting individual rights; and discuss how the basic premises of liberal constitu­tionalism and democracy are joined in the Declaration of Independence as “self­ evident truths.”

Hamilton vs JeffersonSample Lesson #1 – Students need to analyze the opposing viewpoints of  Thomas Jefferson VS. Alexander Hamilton. To do this we will be looking at this document: Jefferson – Hamilton Viewpoints(PDF).

Sample Lesson #2 – Jefferson vs Hamilton Quote Activity(PDF). Students will read through this document and answer the questions within it.

Sample Lesson #3 – Modern World Connection Activity: Review this diagram. It will help to explain some basic difference between left and right on the political spectrum. Remember though, don’t take anything at face value. Always explore for information on your own.

Left vs Right Spectrum Diagram(Website Source)

Resource: Video – A New System of Government – This a 26 minute video by the Annenberg Learner Website. It gives a good background on how the U.S. Government system began.

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STEP #4

OBJECTIVE:12.1.4 – Explain how the Founding Fathers’ realistic view of human nature led directly to the establishment of a constitutional system that limited the power of the governors and the governed as articulated in the Federalist Papers.

Sample Lesson #1 – Read Federalist Paper #10 – James Madison

Sample Lesson #2 – Read Federalist Paper #51 – James Madison

Sample Lesson #3- Read Virginia Plan – James Madison

Resource: Yale Law School: Federalist Papers Library  (This link will take you to the Lillian Goldman Library at Yale Law where you can read all the digital copies of the Federalist Papers)

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STEP #5

OBJECTIVE: 12.1.5 – Describe the systems of separated and shared powers, the role of organized interests (Federalist Paper Number 10), checks and balances (Federalist Paper Number 51), the importance of an independent judiciary (Federalist Paper Number 78), enumerated powers, rule of law, federalism, and civilian control of the military.

Sample Lesson #1 – Due to the fact we have already analyzed Federalist Papers #10 & #51 we will now be looking at Federalist Paper #78 by Alexander Hamilton. Federalist Paper #78 – Alexander Hamilton Read through this document and address the two questions at the top of page one on the space provided on the last page.

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STEP #6

OBJECTIVE:12.1.6 – Understand that the Bill of Rights limits the powers of the federal government and state governments.

Sample Lesson #1 – Read through the Bill of Rights with Text and Brief Explanations (Website Source).

Resource: If the version of the Bill of Rights from Task #1 is still confusing read though this version: Bill of Rights (Plain Text Version) (Website Source).

Resource: Bill of Rights Institute Game: What Would Life be like Without the Bill of Rights? 

Sample Lesson #2 – Now that you have looked over the Bill of Rights we are now going to see how those rights surround you in more forms than just the news and courtrooms. Look at the following art pieces and give me the following three things: 1. Amendment 2. Right 3. Explanation why you think this amendment and right are being depicted. If you need to see the image better you can click on it and it will enlarge.

Art Piece #1

americanWay

Art Piece #2

March-on-Washington

Art Piece #3

Norman Rockwell - Rraying

Art Piece #4

Norman Rockwell - Ruby Bridges (modified)

Art Piece #5

P_19A

Art Piece #6

Sketch of Jury

Art Piece #7

Van Gogh - Prison Courtyard

Art Piece #8

An artist sketch shows Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a militant who appeared in videos as a spokesman for al Qaeda after the September 11, 2001 attacks, appearing at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan

 

STAGE 2 

RIGHTS & OBLIGATIONS

Town Hall Meeting

GOALS: 

California State Standard: 12.2 – Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured.

California State Standard: 12.3 – Students evaluate and take and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of civil society are (i.e., the autonomous sphere of voluntary personal, social, and economic relations that are not part of government), their interdependence, and the meaning and importance of those values and principles for a free society.

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STEP #1

OBJECTIVE: 12.2.1 – Discuss the meaning and importance of each of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and how each is secured.

OBJECTIVE: 12.2.3 – Discuss the individual’s legal obligations to obey the law, serve as a juror, and pay tax

OBJECTIVE: 12.2.5 – Describe the reciprocity between rights and obligations; that is, why enjoyment of one’s rights entails respect for the rights of others.

Sample Lesson #1 – With the knowledge from American Government Stage 1 students will write a brief essay that addresses the following questions:

1. What is the Bill of Rights

2. What would life be like in the U.S. without these rights written down?

3. What are some of the rights and obligations of U.S. citizens?

4. Why should we be proud to pay taxes and serve on a jury?

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STEP #2

OBJECTIVE: 12.2.6 – Explain how one becomes a citizen of the United States, including the process of naturalization.

Sample Lesson – Students will need to study the following steps:

Step 1: Find out if you are eligible

Step 2: Complete an application and collect the necessary documents

Step 3: Get Photographed

Step 4: Send your application, documents, and fee to the Service Center

Step 5: Get Fingerprinted

Step 6: Being Interviewed

Step 7: Receive a decision

Step 8: Take the oath and become a citizen

– To read about each of these steps in detail visit the following site: USCitizenshipTestGuide.com

Sample Lesson #2 – Students will post their opinions on the process to become a citizen in the United States to a digital discussion board on this site.

Student Resources:

Infographics –

Paths to Citizenship

Path to U.S. Citizenship

Choices for Undocumented Workers

Choices for Undocumented Immigrants

Websites –

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Path to U.S. Citizenship

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Online Practice Exam

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – The 100 Questions to Study

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STEP #3

OBJECTIVE: 12.3.4 – Compare the relationship of government and civil society in constitutional democracies to the relationship of government and civil society in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

Sample Lesson #1 – Students will examine and discuss the following chart:

Types of Government

STAGE 3

ELECTIONS & MEDIA

Vote Badges

GOALS:

California State Standard: 12.6 – Students evaluate issues regarding campaigns for national, state, and local elective offices.

California State Standard: 12.8 – Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the influence of the media on American political life.

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STEP # 1

OBJECTIVE: 12.6.1 – Analyze the origin, development, and role of political parties, noting those occasional periods in which there was only one major party or were more than two major parties.

Sample Lesson: Students will develop a PowerPoint presentation on the history of both parties and their current positions. The last slide of this presentation will be the students opinion as to what party they belong to. Here are the direction: American Government – Political Party Project (docx) American Government – Political Party Project (Pdf)

Resources:

YouTube Video – A Brief History of Political Parties (Video from a American Government A.P. Teacher)

YouTube Video – The Evolution of America’s Major Political Parties (not the best, but good information)

YouTube Video – Where US Politics Came From ( High energy video with great info)

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STEP # 2

OBJECTIVE: 12.6.2 – Discuss the history of the nomination process for presidential candidates and the increasing importance of primaries in general elections.

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STEP # 3

OBJECTIVE: 12.6.3 – Evaluate the roles of polls, campaign advertising, and the controversies over campaign funding.

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STEP # 4

OBJECTIVE: 12.6.5 – Discuss the features of direct democracy in numerous states (e.g., the process of referendums, recall elections).

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STEP # 5

OBJECTIVE: 12.6.6 – Analyze trends in voter turnout; the causes and effects of reapportionment and redistricting, with special attention to spatial districting and the rights of minorities; and the function of the Electoral College.

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STEP # 6

OBJECTIVE: 12.8.1 – Discuss the meaning and importance of a free and responsible press.

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STEP # 7

OBJECTIVE: 12.8.2 – Describe the roles of broadcast, print, and electronic media, including the Internet, as means of communication in American politics.

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STEP # 8

OBJECTIVE: 12.8.3 – Explain how public officials use the media to communicate with the citizenry and to shape public opinion.

STAGE 4

Legislative Branch

State_of_the_Union

GOALS:

California State Standard: 12.4 – Students analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government as established by the U.S. Constitution.

California State Standard: 12.7 – Students analyze and compare the powers and procedures of the national, state, tribal, and local governments.

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STEP #1

OBJECTIVE: 12.4.1 – Discuss Article I of the Constitution as it relates to the legislative branch, including eligibility for office and lengths of terms of representatives and senators; election to office; the roles of the House and Senate in impeachment proceedings; the role of the vice president; the enumerated legislative powers; and the process by which a bill becomes a law.

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STEP #2

OBJECTIVE: 12.4.2 – Explain the process through which the Constitution can be amended.

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STEP #3

OBJECTIVE: 12.4.3 – Identify their current representatives in the legislative branch of the national government.

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STEP #4

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.1 – Explain how conflicts between levels of government and branches of government are resolved.

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STEP #5

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.5 – Explain how public policy is formed, including the setting of the public agenda and implementation of it through regulations and executive orders.

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STEP #6

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.6 – Compare the processes of lawmaking at each of the three levels of government, including the role of lobbying and the media.

STAGE 5

Executive Branch

executiveGOALS:

California State Standard: 12.4 – Students analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government as established by the U.S. Constitution.

California State Standard: 12.7 – Students analyze and compare the powers and procedures of the national, state, tribal, and local governments.

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STEP # 1

OBJECTIVE: 12.4.4 – Discuss Article II of the Constitution as it relates to the executive branch, including eligibility for office and length of term, election to and removal from office, the oath of office, and the enumerated executive powers.

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STEP # 2

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.1 – Explain how conflicts between levels of government and branches of government are resolved.

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STEP # 3

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.5 – Explain how public policy is formed, including the setting of the public agenda and implementation of it through regulations and executive orders.

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STEP # 4

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.6 – Compare the processes of lawmaking at each of the three levels of government, including the role of lobbying and the media.

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STEP # 5

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.8 – Understand the scope of presidential power and decision making through examination of case studies such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, passage of Great Society legislation, War Powers Act, Gulf War, and Bosnia.

STAGE 6

Judiciary Branch

Judiciary Branch

GOALS:

California State Standard: 12.4 – Students analyze the unique roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government as established by the U.S. Constitution.

California State Standard: 12.5 – Students summarize landmark U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution and its amendments.

California State Standard: 12.7 – Students analyze and compare the powers and procedures of the national, state, tribal, and local governments.

California State Standard: 12.10 – Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within our constitutional democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: majority rule and individual rights; liberty and equality; state and national authority in a federal system; civil disobedience and the rule of law; freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial; the relationship of religion and government.

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STEP # 1

OBJECTIVE: 12.4.5 – Discuss Article III of the Constitution as it relates to judicial power, including the length of terms of judges and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

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STEP # 2

OBJECTIVE: 12.4.6 – Explain the processes of selection and confirmation of Supreme Court justices

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STEP # 3

OBJECTIVE: 12.5.1 – Understand the changing interpretations of the Bill of Rights over time, including interpretations of the basic freedoms articulated in the First Amendment and the due process and equal-protection-of-the-law clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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STEP # 4

OBJECTIVE: 12.5.2 – Analyze judicial activism and judicial restraint and the effects of each policy over the decades

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STEP # 5

OBJECTIVE: 12.5.3 – Evaluate the effects of the Court’s interpretations of the Constitution in Marbury v Madison, McCulloch v Maryland, and United States v Nixon, with emphasis on the arguments espoused by each side in these cases.

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STEP # 6

OBJECTIVE: 12.5.4 – Explain the controversies that have resulted over changing interpretations of civil rights, including those in Plessy v Ferguson, Brown v Board of Education, Miranda v Arizona, Regents of the University of California v Bakke, Adarand Constructors, Inc v Pena, and United States v Virginia (VMI).

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STEP # 7

OBJECTIVE: 12.7.7 – Identify the organization and jurisdiction of federal, state, and local (e.g.,California) courts and the interrelationships among them.

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STEP # 8

OBJECTIVE: 12.10 – Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within our constitutional democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: majority rule and individual rights; liberty and equality; state and national authority in a federal system; civil disobedience and the rule of law; freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial; the relationship of religion and government.

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Additional Student Resources 

library-of-congress-jeffersons-library

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STAGE 1 – OUR FOUNDATIONS – RESOURCES

Primary Documents :

Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America (1835)

Charles-Louis Montesquieu – The Spirit of Laws (1748)

John Locke – Two Treatises of Government (1690)

Niccolò Machiavelli – The Prince (1515)

Sir William Blackstone – Commentaries on the Laws of England (1753)

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STAGE 6 – JUDICIARY BRANCH RESOURCES

SUPREME COURT CASE STUDY GUIDES:

Major Supreme Court Case Summaries

Essential Supreme Court Cases Study Sheet

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