Provide for the General Welfare – Interstate Highway and Defense Act
In the Constitution, Congress is charged with providing for the general welfare of the country’s
citizens. Historically, this has meant improving transportation, promoting agriculture
and industry, protecting health and the environment and seeking ways to solve social and
economic problems. In 1956, Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, authorizing federal funding for the extension and
construction of a robust network of interstate highways. This project was one of the largest public
works in U.S. history establishing key transportation infrastructure that impacted lives of all
Americans — changing communities, access and economic possibilities and also providing key
routes for evacuating urban centers — a critical national defense issue in the Cold War era.
Analyzing primary source material, students discuss the origins and reasons for the National
Interstate and Defense Highways Act. Then, they work with historical and contemporary maps
as they consider the impact this important congressionally funded project. While intended for 8th
grade students, the lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.
Today’s Vote in the Classroom
Today’s Vote in the Classroom provides two-day lessons that ask students to take on the role of U.S. Senators, debate issues, and cast their votes on real bills that have been introduced to Congress. Today’s Vote in the Classroom is made up of four key parts. Sequenced instructions, a full lesson-plan download, editable worksheets, and classroom presentations will guide you and your students through the program. Select from among many current, engaging topics, including Climate Change, Minimum Wage, Food Labeling, Voting Rights Restrictions, Mandatory Minimum Sentences, and Electoral College.
Civics in Real Life
Civics in Real Life is a simple-to-use resource that ties in to what’s going on today. On this page, updated regularly through the school year, you will find concise resources that explore a civics concept or idea connected to current events. Simply click on the resource to download the PDF and share with your students!
Civics on Call: Classroom-Ready Lessons on Issues of the Day
Civics on Call provides lessons on current news events. The latest lesson is on Containing the Coronavirus. All the lessons contain a fact-based article on the news event, then pose questions for writing and discussion.
Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases
One of our oldest human rights, habeas corpus safeguards individual freedom by preventing unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment. This documentary examines habeas corpus and the separation of powers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between the president’s duty to protect the nation and the constitutional protection of civil liberties in four major Guantanamo Bay cases: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.
Closed captions available in English and Spanish.
The Iran Nuclear Deal and Its Critics
In 2015, President Barack Obama’s administration struck an agreement with the government of Iran and other countries intended to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear weapons. In May 2018, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the agreement known as the “nuclear deal” with Iran. All the nations that signed the deal, however, advised Trump not to withdraw. What will be the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal?
What Should the U.S. Do About North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons?
The United States and North Korea are involved in escalating tensions related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The U.S. opposes North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons. The Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, however, believes he needs nuculear weapons to remain in power. While war with North Korea is probably not imminent, the prospect has caused alarm. A nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea would have devastating consequences.
When National Security Trumps Individual Rights
On December 18, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of its most controversial decisions when it upheld the government’s decision to intern all persons of Japanese ancestry (both alien and nonalien) on the grounds of national security. Over two-thirds of the Japanese in America were citizens and the internment took away their constitutional rights. In this lesson, students evaluate the consequences of past events and decisions related to the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States (1944). They consider the challenges involved when trying to balance civil liberties and national security during threatening times and reflect on the lessons learned about civil liberties from the justices in the Korematsu case.
Rights at Risk in Wartime
The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, stunned the nation. As commander-in-chief, President George W. Bush responded quickly but soon all three branches of government would be embroiled in the struggle to balance national security with the protection of individual liberties amid a war on terror. This lesson plan is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases.” The four cases are examples of how the Supreme Court, the president and Congress fought to balance national security and civil liberties during the war on terror. At the heart of each case was the constitutional right of habeas corpus, the right to have one’s detention or imprisonment reviewed in court.
Defenders of Liberty: The People and the Press
This lesson plan is based on the Annenberg Classroom video “Freedom of the Press: New York Times v. U.S.,” which explores the First Amendment’s protection of a free press as well as the historic origins of this right and the ramifications of the landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case in which the Supreme Court ruled that prior restraint is unconstitutional.