Civics and American Government


Unit 1

Problem Identification

The introductory "Problem Identification" unit establishes the overarching mission and foundation for the Civics and American Government course. Students will identify a significant contemporary problem of personal interest which they wish to track throughout the course. The problem may impact citizens and the community on a local, state, and/or national level. Through their questioning and investigation, students will collect artifacts and journal about the connections between unit materials and their problem, gaining a greater understanding of its background, scope, and overall societal costs. From this initial understanding of the problem, students begin to consider their issues and the role or responsibility of government to take action. This will lead to an exploration of possibilities for solving the selected problem. Students also consider the rights and responsibilities that accompany American citizenship in order to understand the meaning of citizenship. The foundational disposition towards both citizenship and the American democratic system will guide the student to think critically while investigating civic, governmental, and political issues throughout the course.

21st Century Capacities: Problem Identification

Unit 2

Legitimacy of Power

Concepts of power, influence, and control are inseparable from the study of government. Understanding both the source and legitimacy of power will help the student understand many of the foundational concepts of the American Constitutional Republic. To inform their exploration, students will study the early philosophers and the different theories on how power is allocated in a government and also where the legitimacy of power is based. Students will connect this concept to their selected issue being followed throughout the course, examining the people, groups, and government organizations that may have power, influence, or control relative to their issue, as well as whether these individuals should be in control of this issue.

Continuing with the theme of power, students will then look at various trends and events leading to the Declaration of Independence and American Revolution. This study will take place from multiple perspectives, considering both the viewpoints of the Patriots and Loyalists and their determination as to how to move towards the establishment of a new, independent nation. Students will journey through this process, understanding that the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation would require "Constitutional compromises" from the powerful elite meeting together for a summer in Philadelphia. Much of what would come from these compromises represent not only a particular demographic perspective, but also a view of the ideological divide between Federalists and Antifederalists. Students will be prepared to have the same debate on Constitutional ratification, with the focus based on the question of where one places both power and trust when establishing consensus in government.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Alternate Perspectives

Unit 3

Governing by Consensus

In 1787 the Founding Fathers established a Federal Republic through a Constitution which established core principles of democracy: equality, rights, liberties, opportunities, and security. Central to those principles is the concept of consensus. Over 200 years later, the importance of the role of consensus will allow the student to better grasp the inner workings of the American democratic system. The Unit on "Governing by Consensus" focuses on the structure, function, and relationship between and among branches in the federal government and local, state, and national governmental bodies. Through a deeper look into the principles of the Constitution, students will know and be able to apply knowledge and concepts about government power and purpose as the Founding Fathers may have intended. Students will also break down how both formal and informal change occurs in government, especially considering the enduring nature of a 200 year-old Constitution. Students will discuss the organization of the government at the federal level, and may also compare those structures to state and local government structures. In particular, the unit will ask students to consider the reasoning behind laws, how they impact their daily lives, and the benefits and drawbacks of making decisions (legislating) by consensus. In a government that was established to consider equal representation and power of the majority, students will define consensus and evaluate how citizens work together within this social contract. Students, as lawmakers, will further their understanding of the way in which the Framers established the lawmaking process. Experiencing a model senate provides perspective as to how citizens are represented, how decisions are made, and the importance of consensus.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Citizenship

Unit 4

Individual Rights vs. the Common Good

As students prepare to understand both individual rights and the common good, they will need to analyze how the Constitution and government are both limited and powerful as they aim to protect the citizen. Students will learn that the federal powers, as outlined in the Constitution and interpreted by the Judiciary, guide the operations of the US government. The function and purpose of the Judicial Branch in the democratic process, as well as its organization and connection to consensus, will be of focus. Through the study of this branch, students will break down how judicial review potentially exerts the power of change in Government and contributes to the enduring nature of a 200 year-old Constitution. Students will learn, through case study, how the Supreme Court has broad power in government through its rulings on specific Constitutional issues, as established through precedent in landmark cases. Concepts of judicial activism, judicial restraint, and strict vs. loose constructionism will help students to dissect some of these past court rulings and determine how the court may rule on future issues. The unit will ask students to apply these lessons, from the judiciary to the Bill of Rights, to their own lives, weighing the balance between Individual rights and the common good. Specific Constitutional rights and liberties, as outlined in the First and Fourth Amendments, will be used to exemplify this balance between personal freedoms and the common good.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Engaging in Global Issues

Unit 5

How to Win Elections and Influence Voters

Essential to the health of the American political system is an active and informed electorate. Throughout this unit, students will take an introspective journey through the political system, reflecting on their own roles as active participants in the election process. Beyond the historical components of voting and voter rights, student focus will be to investigate the factors which influence an individual's political attitudes and actions to better understand voter behavior. Students will question and research political, economic, social, and geographic influences on voter behavior. In addition, a comprehensive look at political parties and their platforms will guide students as they dissect the structure and elements of elections, the campaign process, and campaign finance. With a focus on the Presidential election, students will break down elements of the Electoral College system and effectively analyze what is required to both manage and win a Presidential campaign. Students will be able to recognize and assess many factors, including the role of the media, which influence the political process and voter consensus. Through inquiry and informed action, students will apply concepts from the unit and manage a campaign which looks to develop a political approach to a contemporary civic issue.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Citizenship

Unit 6 Revisiting the Problem

Effective, productive citizens work toward solving problems and addressing issues. They may or may not achieve their long term goals. However, their efforts often pay off by making others aware of the situation, by building constituencies who will further move the cause, or by inspiring others to be more engaged. In this reprise of Unit 1, students will return to their initially identified problem with a deeper knowledge of the powers and pitfalls of American government. Students have collected artifacts and written journal entries about the connections between each unit's materials and their problem, gaining a greater understanding of its background, scope, and overall societal costs. Students will now employ these connections to develop a Civic Action Plan (CAP) to affect positive change. This mini unit may also encompass the exam.

21st Century Capacities: Presentation, Perseverance, Citizenship