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.
History is the chronicle of choices made by actors/agents/protagonists in specific contexts. This lesson places students at the First Federal Congress and asks them to consider whether citizens have the right to instruct their elected representatives on how to vote. This gets to the very heart of what our government is all about. Should we have a republic—a representative government in which elected leaders are free to deliberate and decide on their own—or a democracy, in which representatives follow the lead of their constituents?
The Constitutional Principles Videos are engaging presentations that detail the principles upon which the Constitution of the United States was founded and how each principle is important and relative to our understanding of the Constitution today. Presentations address the principles of Separation of Powers, Consent of the Governed, Rule of Law, and Representative Government in a Republic.
As part of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not defined by it. That task is left up to the people through a representative government that makes the laws and a judicial system that interprets and applies the laws to resolve disputes. In this lesson, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Freedom of Speech,” students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from Supreme Court decisions and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.
Freedom Summer is a game-based learning module in which players explore the relationship between the Civil Rights Movement and the contentious civil rights debate in Congress. Players are presented with a series of 20 historic events and are required to predict the consequences of each event. Players discover how events of the Civil Rights Movement and concurrent events in Congress impacted each other and the role that both Congress and individuals play in representative democracy.
The Newseum believes that improving civic education has the power to improve our schools, communities and our democracy. The Baltimore unrest can be an entry point in your conversation with students.
The Newseum has numerous resources to help teachers broach this topic in the classroom. Lesson plans, videos and activities guide students in how civil rights issues have been represented in the media over many decades. And how citizens, including young people, can develop a voice and use the freedoms of the First Amendment to effect change and inspire action.