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!
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.
Why We the People? Citizens as Agents of Constitutional Change
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. Free registration for students and teachers required to access resource.
Creating Effective Citizens/Social Studies in Action Library
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.
Court Shorts: Jury Service, Hands-on Justice
Jury service is an example of hands-on participation in democracy. In a five-minute video, 11 federal judges talk about jury service as an opportunity for citizens to be part of the judicial process that has an impact on daily life. The video, which deals with Constitutional principles and the practicalities of jury service, is part of the Court Shorts video series that includes installments on the rule of law and separation of powers.
Citizens, who had served on juries, were asked how they would describe the experience from a personal point of view. Read their impressions and insights.
Learn About Jury Service
Jury service is a way for U.S. citizens to participate in the judicial process. This resource provides information about juror selections, types of trials heard by jurors, and how judges and juries work together.