Constitutional Conversations

Constitutional Conversations is a series of discussions by America’s leading scholars. Topics include: James Madison and American Constitutionalism; Women and Early American Constitutionalism; Religion and American Constitutionalism. Another video series, called Presidents and the Constitution, features journalist Hugh Sidey interviewing Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Grades 8, 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Oral Histories

The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment

The American Bar Association Dialogue program provides lawyers, judges and teachers with the resources they need to engage students and community members in a discussion of fundamental American legal principles and civic traditions. This Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment is composed of three parts:
Part 1: Equal Protection and Civil Rights – Participants discuss the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and consider how Congress, through federal legislation, has worked to help realize its constitutional promise.
Part 2: Incorporating the Bill of Rights examines the concept of incorporation. Using a case study of Gitlow v. New York, this section provides a guide to how courts have applied the Bill of Rights, selectively, to the states using the 14th Amendment.
Part 3: Ensuring Equality and Liberty explores how the 14th Amendment has been interpreted by courts to protect fundamental freedoms, including individuals’ right to marry.

Women During the American Revolution

This short video illustrates the degree to which women actively participated in the American Revolution. In response to the Stamp Act, American colonists agreed to stop importing British goods and the colonial women led the boycotts of tea, fine cloth, and other consumer goods. Women began to think of themselves as “Daughters of Liberty.” Professor Rosemarie Zagarri explains how male political leaders came to acknowledge the political capacity and potential of women during this era.

Grades 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Video

The Constitution as a Fulfillment of the American Revolution

This short video challenges the notion that the Constitution was a conservative reaction to the democratic ideals of the American Revolution. The Revolution generated constitutional discussion in the states, where legislators explored the nature of executive power, and other constitutional questions. In light of this constitutional innovation, Professor Jack Rakove maintains that the Constitution of 1787 was the culmination of—not a reaction to–the Revolution of the late 1770’s.

Grades 10, 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Video

The American Founding: The Bill of Rights

This comprehensive, multimedia online exhibit features a trove of resources on the Bill of Rights. Part I contains the English, Colonial, State, and Continental origins of the Bill of Rights; Part II features the Federalist/Antifederalist Debate over the Bill of Rights; and Part III explains the politics of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress through its adoption.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Audio

Grade 9-10 What was Most “Revolutionary” About the Declaration of Independence?

This lesson will use a close reading of the Declaration of Independence to explore the American colonists’ reasons for separating from Great Britain. By the conclusion of the lesson, student will understand the role of the Declaration in encouraging support for American Independence, and in laying the groundwork for a new system of government and individual rights.