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

Government Speech Under the First Amendment

This lesson teaches students, through a simulation related to government-sponsored Confederate monuments, about the government-speech doctrine under the First Amendment. In particular, this lesson aims to (1) introduce students to the issue of government speech; (2) teach the doctrine; (3) apply the doctrine in a contemporary context; and (4) critically analyze the doctrine.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9

The Amendments That Got Away

Students explore the constitutional amendment process, learn about three amendments that were not ratified, and simulate a state-level ratification process. The lesson fits into a variety of courses, including government, law, civics and history.

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

The Supremacy Clause

Tension between the states and the federal government has been a constant throughout U.S. history. This video explores the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution and key moments in the power struggle, including the landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland. In McCulloch, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the supremacy clause unequivocally states that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

First Amendment: Speech

When does the First Amendment allow the government to limit speech? Many Americans struggle with understanding the language and subsequent interpretation of the Constitution, especially when it comes to the rights encapsulated in the First Amendment. While many Americans can agree that speech should be protected, there are disagreements over when, where, and how speech should be limited or restricted. This lesson encourages students to examine their own assumptions and to deepen their understanding of current accepted interpretation of speech rights under the First Amendment, including when and where speech is protected and/or limited. It should reinforce the robustness of the First Amendment protections of speech.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 11, 12

Learning about the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

This resource provides students with an English language video and associated student friendly readings (in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole), as well as reading and video guides and self assessment tools. Using these, students will explore the meaning and importance of the Preamble.
Free registration is required to use the resource.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Descriptive Text, ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Quizzes, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment

The American Bar Association Dialogue program provides lawyers, judges and teachers with the resources they need to engage students and community members in a discussion of fundamental American legal principles and civic traditions. This Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment is composed of three parts:
Part 1: Equal Protection and Civil Rights – Participants discuss the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and consider how Congress, through federal legislation, has worked to help realize its constitutional promise.
Part 2: Incorporating the Bill of Rights examines the concept of incorporation. Using a case study of Gitlow v. New York, this section provides a guide to how courts have applied the Bill of Rights, selectively, to the states using the 14th Amendment.
Part 3: Ensuring Equality and Liberty explores how the 14th Amendment has been interpreted by courts to protect fundamental freedoms, including individuals’ right to marry.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Timelines
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 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

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┬áhealth 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