Article V of the Constitution says how the Constitution can be amended; that is, how provisions can be added to the text of the Constitution. The Constitution is not easy to amend: Only 27 amendments have been added to the Constitution since it was adopted. Discover how the amendment process works in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.
Separation of Powers
Instead of placing authority in the hands of one person, like a king, or even a small group of people, the U.S. Constitution divides power. Power is first divided between the national, or federal government, and the state and local government under a system known as Federalism. At the federal level, the Constitution again divides power between the three major branches of our federal government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. Discover the battles of the branches in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.
Constitutional Conversations and Civil Dialogue
As you read, interpret, and cite the Constitution, it’s important to think about how the Constitution defines or limits the power of the government. That’s how constitutional scholars and judges read, interpret, and cite the Constitution! Check out our Civil Dialogue Toolkit in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.
Discover the documents at the bedrock of our nation’s founding and understand the fundamental ideas from each of the documents, and the major principles of the U.S. Constitution. Primary sources include the Declaration of Independence, Articles of the Confederation, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Federalist papers (#51, #70, #78), Brutus #1, and the amazing Letter from the Birmingham City Jail. Check out the National Constitution Center’s learning module for more resources!
Bill of Rights Overview
The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments guarantee essential rights and civil liberties, such as the freedom of religion, the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, trial by jury, and more, as well as reserving rights to the people and the states. After the Constitutional Convention, the absence of a bill of rights emerged as a central part of the ratification debates. Anti-Federalists, who opposed ratification, pointed to the missing bill of rights as a fatal flaw. Several states ratified the Constitution on the condition that a bill of rights be promptly added. Pop over to the National Constitution Center’s learning module to discover more!
The right of a citizen to vote is not directly protected in the Constitution, and throughout our history that right has often been granted to some, but denied to others. However, through various amendments to the Constitution, the right to vote has become more and more inclusive. Uncover the battle for voting rights in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.
“Federalism” is the word used to describe the Constitution’s system of dividing political power between the national government and the states. What is federalism and how does it work? Why did the founders build federalism into our constitutional system and what are the modern debates over federalism today? Explore the National Constitution Center’s Federalism learning module to learn more!
The Constitutional Convention
In the summer of 1787, delegates gathered for a convention in Philadelphia, with the goal of revising the Articles of Confederation, the nation’s existing governing document, which wasn’t really working. Instead, they wrote a whole new document, which created a revolutionary form of government: the U.S. Constitution. Read more about the summer of 1787 in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.
This series of videos breaks down the different parts of the United States Constitution for students. In the videos, Kim and Sal interview constitutional scholars associated with the National Constitution Center, including Jeffrey Rosen, Heather Gerken, Ilya Somin, and Richard Garnett.
27 Amendments Overview
There have been 27 amendments added to the Constitution since its ratification over 230 years ago. Each amendment has meant big changes to our system of government, and our nation as a whole. Discover the different amendments in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.