In America, the responsibility to protect individual rights and promote the common good ultimately rests with its citizens, not the government. When citizens participate in thoughtful and responsible ways, the welfare of our constitutional democracy is ensured. While most civic participation is voluntary, the call to serve on a jury is not. It comes as an order by the court.
Students can hear Sal give an introduction to campaign finance up to and after Citizens United, including the difference between soft and hard money, the influence of PACs and super PACs, and the impact of the McCain-Feingold Act. They can then follow that up with an in-depth video on Citizens United v. FEC in which Sal discusses the background and holdings of the case with scholars Richard Hasen, professor of law at UC Irvine School of Law, and Bradley Smith, former chairman of the FEC. Teachers can then assign an exercise to their students aligned to the current AP Government and Politics exam to assess how well they understood the content of the lesson.
In this lesson, students will consider a proposed teen curfew law in a mock city council session. The class is divided into groups; one group is the city council, and the others represent the interests of groups of citizens – merchants association, county school board, etc. This exercise helps show students how citizens can be involved in policy change and decision making.
In Counties Work, students learn about local government by playing a county official responding to citizen requests. They must keep citizens happy and manage county resources responsibly. Are citizens making sensible requests? Which department of local government has the solution? Do taxes need to be raised or lowered to keep a balanced budget? How will citizens react—and what’s the best action when crisis strikes? Challenges come from all directions in this fast-paced game!
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.
Constitutional scholar Linda R. Monk’s “Why We the People? Citizens as Agents of Constitutional Change” introduces us to one of the most radical ideas embodied in the Constitution: that ultimate sovereignty lies with the citizens themselves. It was this principle, Monk reminds us, that prompted the demand, during the ratification debates, that a bill of rights be added to the Constitution.
Watch lesson plans in the video, “Creating Effective Citizens,” from the Social Studies in Action Library, that teach students how to become active and effective citizens. Students participate in role-play and simulations that model civic action, discuss controversial laws about gender discrimination and individual rights, explore what it means to be a global citizen within a democracy, and engage students in local and national issues.
Students explore the founding era legacies of assembly and petition and how those legacies informed the creation of these often-overlooked aspects of the First Amendment. They will complete a close reading activity to compare and contrast ideas presented in the Interactive Constitution and describe the ways these rights have been interpreted by the Court and used by citizens at various points throughout U.S. history. They will evaluate the constitutionality of assembly and petition rights in the modern era through an in-class, civil dialogue addressing questions about time, place, and manner restrictions; counter-protests; protests on college campuses; and other relevant assembly and petition questions.
In this lesson, students examine the historical context and the drafting of the First Amendment by examining the motivations of the founding generation. Students will also examine various types of “speech,” such as symbolic speech, hate speech, and political speech, to address the scope of protections promised by the First Amendment and learn that speech can only be limited when it is intended to and likely to cause imminent violence. In each instance, students will explore when the government has some authority to restrict speech; areas of consensus among scholars, judges, and citizens; the strongest constitutional arguments on each side of contested issues; and U.S. Supreme Court cases that have addressed free speech rights.
Protest has a long history in the United States, especially in the U.S. Capital. Citizens have taken to the streets to express their disagreements with the actions or policies of the government. Whether it is advocating for civil rights, expressing opposition to abortion rights, or demonstrating support or opposition to a political candidate, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals the right to free speech, as well as the rights to peaceable assembly and to petition the government. Together, these add up to peaceful protest. But there may be times where protest becomes unlawful and slips over the line into sedition.
Other relevant Civics in Real Life lessons: Inching Toward Inauguation; Presidential Transition; Electoral College; Consent of the Governed. Grades 6-12. Florida Joint Center for Citizenship.