Engaging Congress is a fun, interactive game that uses primary source documents to explore the basic principles of representative government and the challenges they face in contemporary society.
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.
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.
Locate primary sources from the holdings of the National Archives related to such topics as “checks and balances,” “representative government,” all 27 amendments, and other concepts found in the Constitution. This special home page devoted to the U.S. Constitution also features activities to share with students, such as “The Constitution at Work,” which uses primary sources to demonstrate the Constitution in action in our everyday lives.
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.
Facts of Congress is a series of twenty fast-paced, one-minute animated videos that cover the basic concepts and terms of representative government. The series addresses questions such as: What is Congress? How does Congress work? What does Congress do for me? How can I participate? Scroll down on the linked page to find the full series of videos.
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.
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?