Foundations of Democracy

This collection gives teachers access to foundational principles of democracies including rule of law, limited government and checks and balances. It can be used to build background knowledge to analyze the health of our democracy over time and in today’s environment.

Essential Questions include:

  • What systems attempt to limit government power?
  • Where does the government gain its authority in a democracy?
  • What is the rule of law and how does it play out in democracies?
  • What are ways of measuring the health of a democracy?
  • What recourses are in place to ensure the health of democracy?
  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12

What is a Democracy?

In this lesson, students will identify essential components of a functioning democracy. They will be presented with “borderline” countries – hypothetical nations that exhibit some, but not all, of the characteristics of a democracy. Through discussion and group work, students will expand their understanding of democracy and see different manifestations of democratic practices.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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

Puritan Massachusetts: Theocracy or Democracy?

In the 1630s, English puritans in Massachusetts bay colony created a self-government that went far beyond what existed in England. Some historians argue that it was a religious government, or theocracy. Others claim it was a democracy. Following the reading, in small groups, students investigate, discuss, and decide the question: Was the government in Puritan Massachusetts a theocracy, a democracy, or neither?

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

Democracy Corps: A Complete Service Learning Program

Learn about American democracy while serving your community. Serve your community while learning about the responsibilities of American democracy. YLI’s Democracy Corps brings your civics lessons to the community while instilling life- long civic engagement in your students.

  • Resource Type: Editorial Cartoons, Essays, Lesson Plans, Oral Histories, Photography, Quizzes, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Surveys
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Direct Democracy: Should our democracy allow national referendums?

The president called it a move to start the country over again. It limited the amount of land anyone could own. It declared the state was secular, meaning not religious. It required judges to be elected. This lesson provides students with background information and arguments for and against allowing national referenda. Students are encouraged to deliberate the issue and come to their own conclusions based on evidence and reason.

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

Democracy in America

Democracy in America is a unique 15-part course for high school teachers to provide a deeper understanding of the principles and workings of American democracy. By combining compelling video stories of individuals interacting with American government, theoretical discussions of the meaning of democracy, and problem-solving, hands-on exercises, the course gives life to the workings of American democracy.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Interactives, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12