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Participation in Government - Potential Unit Outline
Foundations of American Government
Responsibilities and Obligations
Political Participation
Voting and elections
Political Ideology
Political Parties
Mass media and public opinion
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Legislative Branch
Executive Branch
Judicial Branch
State and Local Government
Participation in Government Curriculum Guide
Compelling Questions
Suggested Learning Activities
DEMOCRACY: The principles of
American democracy are reflected
in the Constitution and the Bill of
Rights and in the organization and
actions of federal, state, and local
government entities. The
interpretation and application of
American democratic principles
continue to evolve and be debated.
12.G1a Enlightenment ideas such as
natural rights, the social contract,
popular sovereignty, and
representative government greatly
influenced the framers of the
Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Why should Americans today
care about the Enlightenment?
How does the Declaration of
Independence define tyranny?
How do we apply the concept of
natural rights for the 21st
Analyze excerpts from the
works of Locke, Montesquieu,
and Rousseau and
locate/interpret evidence of
these ideas in the Declaration of
Independence, the Constitution,
and the Bill of Rights
Enlightenment philosophers
Have students develop a
classroom constitution with rules
and procedures for the
classroom to illustrate a social
contract theory of government
Illustrate the concept of tyranny
by employing case studies of
contemporary dictatorships (i.e.
North Korea, Zimbabwe,
Myanmar, China, Cuba, Russia)
12.G1b The Constitution created a
unique political system that distributes
powers and responsibilities among
three different branches of government
at the federal level and between state
and federal governments. State
constitutions address similar structures
and responsibilities for their localities.
How is government organized at
the federal, state, and local
Who represents you in
government and how do you
contact these people to voice
your concerns?
Students will write an
individualized Declaration of
Independence in which they
break away from
someone/something in their life
Compare/contrast excerpts of
the New York State Constitution
with the US Constitution
Utilize current events to
illustrate the concept of
federalism and highlight
contemporary controversies
such as the legalization of
marijuana, same-sex marriage,
Common Core standards,
Affordable Care Act, voting
policies and procedures,
Hurricane Katrina
12.G1c Limited government is
achieved through the separation of
powers between three different
branches. The system of checks and
balances is part of this limited
government structure at all levels of
12.G1d The rule of law is a system in
which no one, including government, is
above the law. The United States legal
system has evolved over time as the
result of implementation and
interpretation of common law,
constitutional law, statutory law, and
administrative regulations.
How does checks and balances
guard against tyranny?
What does the rule of law
Does America sufficiently apply
the concept of the rule of law?
Create a visual graphic
illustrating separation of
powers/checks and balances at
the federal level
Checks and balances DBQ
Student groups will research
and present a historical example
of checks and balances in
action (i.e. Treaty of Versailles,
nomination of Robert Bork,
impeachment of Bill Clinton,
resignation of Richard Nixon,
Supreme Court decision
involving student rights at public
school, Bush’s stem cell
research veto,)
Rule of law webquest: Compare
the USA’s interpretation and
application of the rule of law
with nation-states such as Saudi
Arabia, Russia, Singapore (i.e.
caning of American citizen
Michael Fay) Italy (i.e. Amanda
Knox as a case study
highlighting extradition), Mexico,
China, etc.
ABA Rule of Law Info - Use this
to help students be able to
explain the concept of the rule
of law
12.G1e The powers not delegated
specifically in the Constitution are
reserved to the states. Though the
powers and responsibilities of the
federal government have expanded
over time, there is an ongoing debate
over this shift in power and
12.G1f The Constitution includes a
clearly defined and intentionally
rigorous process for amendment. This
process requires state and federal
participation, and allows the
Constitution to evolve and change.
Does federalism promote unity
or division in the United States?
Federalism inquiry
Is the Constitution a “living
document” or an “enduring
document?” What is the
What constitutional amendment
is needed for the 21st century?
Conduct case studies of both
ratified and failed amendments
to illustrate the process (i.e.
child labor, Equal Rights
Amendment, D.C. statehood,
Justice Scalia Interview Originalism
Students propose an idea for a
28th Amendment and mimic the
ratification process in the
LIBERTIES: The United States
Constitution aims to protect
individual freedoms and rights that
have been extended to more groups
of people over time. These rights
and freedoms continue to be
debated, extended to additional
people, and defined through judicial
interpretation. In engaging in
issues of civic debate, citizens act
with an appreciation of differences
and are able to participate in
constructive dialogue with those
who hold different perspectives.
12.G2a Equality before the law and
due process are two fundamental
values that apply to all under the
jurisdiction of the United States. While
the United States legal system aims to
uphold the values of equality before
the law, due process, human dignity,
freedom of conscience, inalienable
rights, and civility, the extent to which
the legal system upholds these values
in practice is an issue of ongoing civic
What is due process and how
has it been redefined for the
21st century?
What makes a law
“Bill’s Bad Day” due process
Case studies and scenarios:
Rights of the accused
Case study: Yick Wo and equal
12.G2b The Constitution aims to
protect, among other freedoms,
individual and group rights to freedom
of speech, freedom of the press,
freedom of assembly, freedom of
petition, and freedom of religion. The
extent to which these ideals exist in
practice and how these protections
should be applied in a changing world
continues to be an issue of ongoing
civic debate.
12.G2c An independent judicial system
is an integral part of the process that
interprets and defends citizens’
freedoms and rights. Issues pertaining
to the flexibility of judicial interpretation
and the impartiality of justices in
practice are continued sources of
public debate.
What are the limitations on the
freedom of expression?
When does the majority interest
outweigh the rights of the
Why is a free press essential to
American democracy?
How do Supreme Court justices
make decisions?
Does the Supreme Court ever
change its mind?
Should Supreme Court justices
hold life tenure?
Suggested video: Constitution
USA with Peter Sagal, episode
3, “Created Equal”
Patriot Act inquiry
Assignment → When might
speech be limited?
Research assignment→
Interpreting the establishment
clause and the free exercise
Students can go to and read
petitions started by Americans
or start their own petition
Review existing petitions at
Suggested film for freedom of
the press: All the President’s
Men (1976)
Suggested reading assignment:
“5 Things to Know About the
Supreme Court”, New York
Times UpFront
12.G2d The definition of civil rights has
broadened over the course of United
States history, and the number of
people and groups legally ensured of
these rights has also expanded.
However, the degree to which rights
extend equally and fairly to all (e.g.,
race, class, gender, sexual orientation)
is a continued source of civic
12.G2e Rights are not absolute; they
vary with legal status, with location (as
in schools and workplaces), and with
circumstance. The different statuses of
United States residency bring with
them specific protections, rights, and
responsibilities. Minors have specific
rights in school, in the workplace, in
the community, and in the family. The
extension of rights across location,
circumstance, age, and legal status is
a subject of civic discourse.
What is the purpose of the
“equal protection” provision of
the 14th Amendment? How is
this interpreted today?
Should marriage rights be
extended to all citizens?
What are the limits on free
Are there specific rights that are
not protected while in school?
Video clips from video series
Constitution USA series
(Episode titled “created equal”)
(Same-Sex Marriage)
NY Times Summary Students
will review and analyse the NY
Times article.
Review Supreme Court
o Schenck v. United States
o Tinker v. Des Moines
Independent School
District (1969)
Following review and discussion
of the above
cases students will brainstorm
other rights they
may not believe to be absolute
Schenck v.
ml or
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent
School District:
12G2f Freedom of the press is an
essential element of a democratic
system, and allows for a citizen to
receive and interpret information
representing different points of view.
Freedom of the press has limits, which
are intended to protect the rights of
individuals and other entities. The
degree to which the press is free and
impartial in practice is a source of
ongoing debate.
Are there any limits that are
placed on the press?
Does the press have any
responsibilities to the
Students will review the
highlights of the colonial era
John Peter Zenger trial
Students will review the key
point of the case known as the
“Pentagon Papers” or New
York Times v. United States
Based on the above students will
write a letter to
the editor discussing conditions
that warrant a
limit on the First Amendment’s
Freedom of the Press idea.
Suggested topics: Racial
profiling, child labor, women’s
rights issues (pay, health &
privacy), marriage equality
Active, engaged, andinformed
citizens are critical to the success of
the United States representative
democracy. United States citizens
have certain rights, responsibilities,
and duties, the fulfillment of which
help to maintain the healthy
functioning of the national, state,
and local communities.
12.G3a Citizens should be informed
about rights and freedoms, and
committed to balancing personal
liberties with a social responsibility to
How can you become and
active and engaged citizen?
Community Service project
o Students will complete 20
hours of community
service at a pre-approved
site and document their
Government in Action project
o Students will attend 1
local town meeting and 1
school board meeting for
the purpose of actively
engaging in local
12.G3b The right to vote, a
cornerstone of democracy, is the most
direct way for citizens to participate in
the government. A citizen must register
to vote, and may register as a party
member or select the status of
Lecture/discussion: Balancing
personal liberty with national
NYS Voter Registration
12.G3c Citizens have opportunities to
both participate in and influence their
communities and country. Citizens
contribute to government processes
through legal obligations such as
obeying laws, paying taxes, serving on
juries, and registering for selective
How can citizens influence
public policy in a representative
Students will create a list of
requirements to vote in New
York State
What are the requirements to be egister.html
able to vote?
How does an individual register
to vote?
How can you influence local
What is and how do you register
for selective service?
What other legal obligations are
there as a US citizen?
Students will create a chart
highlighting the qualifications for
jury service in New York
State. Additionally, students will
answer a series of questions
related to jury service (ex. How
is a jury pool created?, etc.)
Students will create a list of
expectations for selective
service as well as for the
consequences for failing to
register. Students will also
discuss whether or not the law
should apply to males and
females in the 21st century
12.G3d Citizens have the right to
represent their locality, state, or
country as elected officials. Candidates
develop a campaign, when they decide
to seek public office.
numerous avenues for engagement
in the political process, from
exercising the power of the vote, to
affiliating with political parties, to
engaging in other forms of civic
participation. Citizens leverage both
electoral and non-electoral means to
participate in the political process.
Who can run for public office?
Why should I join a political
What political party should I
How do I join a political party?
What happens if I do not join a
political party?
What is the difference between
a liberal and conservative?
Where do I fall on the political
ideology spectrum?
Film case study: Street Fight
Guest speakers inform students
of the campaign process:
Representatives from state and
local government (i.e. Senator
Griffo, Assemblyman Brindisi)
NY Times Upfront article: A Day
on the Campaign Trail
Party Ideology Project
12.G4a Depending on the level of
government and type of election, there
are different processes and
mechanisms within the United States
electoral and representational systems,
including the electoral college and
winner-take all systems. Advantages
and drawbacks of election processes
and mechanisms continue to be an
issue of ongoing debate in the United
What are the major advantages
and disadvantages of the
electoral college system?
Can the electoral college
system fail?
How could our voting system be
12.G4b Allowing citizens to vote does
not ensure that a system is a
democracy. Open, safe, and honest
elections are essential to a democratic
system. Engaged and informed
citizens should know the mechanics
associated with voting, including when
major local, state, and national
elections are held, how to register to
vote, who currently holds each office,
who is running for office, and what the
central issues are pertaining to that
Who are our elected officials?
How do I effectively
communicate with these
When and how do I vote?
How can I get involved in the
political process within my
Students will use the website to:
o analyze past elections
and the impact of the
electoral college on those
o predict the outcome of
the upcoming elections
o realize the impact that
one state can have on
the outcome of an
Abolish the Electoral College
DBQ assignment
Lecture discussion: The
Electoral Process
Who’s who in government
identification assignment
o Primary and general
election calendar
Have students conduct web
research to identify national,
state, and local officials
Students can write letters to
elected/appointed officials
expressing viewpoints on
political issues
Create a voter information
12.G4c In addition to voting, there are
many ways in which citizens can
participate in the electoral process.
These include joining a political
organization, donating money, and
doing volunteer work on a political
12.G4d The United States and New
York have political party systems, and
the political parties represent specific
political, economic, and social
philosophies. Debate over the role and
influence of political parties continues,
although they play a significant role in
United States elections and politics.
The role of political parties and the
platforms they represent varies
between states in the United States.
12.G4e Citizens participate in civic life
through volunteerism and advocacy,
including efforts such as contacting
elected officials, signing/organizing
petitions, protesting, canvassing, and
participating in/organizing boycotts.
What role does money play in
campaigns and elections?
How can I become involved in a
political campaign?
What are the key differences
between Democrats and
Is a two-party system necessary
for American democracy?
How can I express my political
viewpoints civilly in a democratic
How do good citizens serve
their community?
Mock campaign and election
Make a campaign
advertisement (video ad.)
Community service project (20
Compare/contrast state
Democratic and Republican
party platforms with the national
party platforms
Research the role of third
parties (past and present) and
their influence on the political
Students create their own
political party platform
Community service project
Show students how to start a
petition at
o Identify examples of
current and past petitions
12.G5 PUBLIC POLICY: All levels of
government—local, state, and
federal—are involved in shaping
public policy and responding to
public policy issues, all of which
influence our lives beyond what
appears in the Constitution.
Engaged citizens understand how to
find, monitor, evaluate, and respond
to information on public policy
12.G5a Each level of government has
its own process of shaping,
implementing, amending, and
enforcing public policy. Customarily the
executive branch will outline its plan
and agenda in an executive address to
the legislative body.
What is public policy and how
do citizens take an active role in
shaping public policy?
Which public policies are
necessary for my community?
How is public policy created?
How can public policy be
started on a range of
Describe the steps
necessary to receive a
petition response from
the federal government
Examine elected officials
websites and look for current
proposed legislation
Examine recently passed
legislation and discuss potential
impact of that legislation
Create a set of goals to improve
the local community and devise
public policy proposals to
accomplish these goals
Students participate in weekly
current events discussion
Watch a recent State of the
Union Address and discuss
what items were being
addressed by the President and
the reactions from both sides of
the isle.
12.G5b On various issues, certain
governmental branches and agencies
are responsible for determining policy.
Those who create public policies
attempt to balance regional and
national needs, existing political
positions and loyalties, and sources of
political power.
12.G5c Successful implementation of
government policy often requires
cooperation between many levels of
government, as well as the cooperation
of other public and private institutions.
Conflicts between different levels of
government sometimes emerge due to
different goals, ideas, and resources
regarding the creation and
implementation of policy.
12.G5d Active and engaged citizens
must be effective media consumers in
order to be able to find, monitor, and
evaluate information on political issues.
The media have different venues,
which have particular strengths and
serve distinct and shared purposes.
Knowing how to critically evaluate a
media source is fundamental to being
an informed citizen.
How important is compromise?
What does the term “reaching
across the Isle” mean?
What is the role of special
interest groups when it comes to
shaping public policy?
Examine current legislation
proposals and find the
compromises that are taking
Examine the current
agreements between the
Oneida Indian Reservation and
Oneida County and the impact
on the region
How are conflicts between
different levels of government
often resolved?
What is a good example of how
conflict has led to a breakdown
in government?
When has government been
successful in coming together to
solve a common problem?
Analyze local issues and how
they have been solved by local
Identify a problem in our local
community and come up with a
solution to that problem or a
suggestion as to how the local
government could attempt to
resolve this problem.
What is the best source for
Can we trust the media?
What are the responsibilities of
the media when reporting a
Current Event Assignment and
Recap of Nightly News Report
Analysis of news report from
different news agencies and
compare the similarities or
differences of the reports..kp8