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.
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.
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This landmark piece of legislation made discrimination based on race illegal. This law protected the right to vote for all citizens; forced states to obey the Constitution; and reinforced the 15th Amendment. The Share My Lesson team has curated a collection of free lesson plans, activities, and classroom materials that educators can use to teach students about the Voting Rights Act.
The founders understood that, in order to preserve their liberty and happiness, and that of future generations, the foundation of successful self-government was citizens who understood and applied certain virtues. They constructed the U.S. Constitution according to their study of the principles and virtues that were most necessary to sustain a free, prosperous, and orderly society. This lesson is ideal for the first day of school.
This collection of documents on the Cold War continues TeachingAmericanHistory.org’s extended series of document collections covering major periods, themes and institutions in American history and government. The volume covers American aid to Europe in the early years of the Cold War and American intervention in subsequent years in conflicts around the world to contain the spread of Soviet power. Its documents also explore the dometic effects of the Cold War, chronicling how national security concerns affected relations between American citizens and between Americans and their government. Each volume includes:
Key documents on the period, theme or institution, selected by an expert and reviewed by an editorial board
A thematic table of contents, showing the connections between various documents
Study questions for each document as well as questions that refer to other documents in the collection
Notes on each document to identify people, events, movements, or ideas to improve understanding of the document’s historical context
In its first constitutional challenge to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear a case brought by a Chinese immigrant, not an American citizen. Yick Wo believed city ordinances had been unfairly applied to him, so he challenged their constitutionality under the equal protection clause, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.