Birth of American Democracy: Discourse, Debate and Compromise

In this exploration of American democracy students will follow the path to representative government by analyzing the tradition of discourse, debate, and compromise from Jamestown to Williamsburg and Philadelphia and finally to Washington. Students will determine the importance of debate and compromise for the development of a government by and for the people and also identify strategies for making their voices heard in government today.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Core Documents Collection – Documents and Debates 1865-2009

The Core Documents Collection – Documents and Debates is structured around a series of topics, each based on a question for debate. For each topic, there is a collection of documents that, together, form the basis of argument over that topic – from those who debated it at a given point in American history. Volume One covers 1865-2009.
The goal is to explore a series of critical moments in American history by asking questions for which there are not simple yes/no answers, but instead call for informed discussion and rational debate. The Documents and Debates readers also include appendices of additional documents, and together are a perfect fit for any American History survey course, including AP U.S. History.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy, Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Core Documents Collection: Documents and Debates 1493-1865

The Core Documents Collection – Documents and Debates is structured around a series of topics, each based on a question for debate. For each topic, there is a collection of documents that, together, form the basis of argument over that topic – from those who debated it at a given point in American history. Volume One covers 1493-1865, and Volume Two covers 1865-2009.
The goal is to explore a series of critical moments in American history by asking questions for which there are not simple yes/no answers, but instead call for informed discussion and rational debate. The Documents and Debates readers also include appendices of additional documents, and together are a perfect fit for any American History survey course, including AP U.S. History.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: History
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

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.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Interactives, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

From Provocative to Productive: Teaching Controversial Topics

Get first steps for creating a respectful yet vibrant environment for students to explore diverse ideas on controversial topics, from politics to profanity, religion to racism. Four guidelines and a debate leader checklist provide a foundation for those seeking to steer productive conversations about controversial subjects.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

National Debate Topic for High Schools

Each year the U.S. Senate disseminates a document to assist debaters in researching the subject chosen by the National University Extension Association as the national high school debate topic. The guide provides references and excerpts to articles, reports, and other appropriate materials relating to the subject. In preparing the compilations the Congressional Research Service includes current materials which are representative of, and give equal emphasis to, the opposing views of the topic.

  • Resource Type: Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Debate Watching Guide

This lesson is designed to help students view political debates. The resources provided support the critical evaluation of the candidate’s performances. Body language, demeanor, appearance and positions on key issues are analyzed in an attempt to help students determine the importance of debates to the election cycle. This lesson could be used in class or as a homework assignment.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Editorial Cartoons, Essays, Lesson Plans, Surveys, Video
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12

Civil Conversation: Immigration Enforcement Raids

Controversial legal and policy issues, as they are discussed in the public arena, often lead to polarization, not understanding. This Civil Conversation activity offers an alternative. In this structured discussion method, under the guidance of a facilitator, participants are encouraged to engage intellectually with challenging materials, gain insight about their own point of view, and strive for a shared understanding of issues. This lesson plan addresses the debate over the policies of the federal agency – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – that investigates and enforces the nation’s immigration laws.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 10, 11, 12

Bill of Rights in the News: Gun Rights in the 21st Century

In the wake of recent tragic shootings, there has been a significant revival of the debate over the Second Amendment and gun control. The debate, in broad generalities, is split between two sides. On one side are gun control advocates who believe that stricter regulation of guns would reduce violence. On the other side are gun rights advocates, who believe that the right to own a gun is fundamental and that more restrictions on gun ownership do not decrease violence.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Understanding Contracts

In this lesson, students are asked which of two chocolate bars – one with nuts, one without – they prefer. A single representative is taken from each preference group. These representatives are given the chocolate bar that they prefer less, motivating a contractual trade. One student unknowingly has an empty wrapper, eliciting debate after the trade is completed. The class concludes by discussing possible equitable solutions.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8