Wayne RESA
Unit Abstract

This unit introduces students to the fundamental values and constitutional principles of the American political system.  The responsibilities of citizens in our democratic republic are explored at the end of the unit.  Students begin their study of civics and government by exploring why people form governments.  They think about what life would be like without government, rules or laws. By considering the advantages of forming a civil society, students explore the purposes of government, role of citizens and institutions, and the distribution of political power.  Using ideas from influential political philosophers such as Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, students explore how each viewed the role of government.  Next, students examine historical and contemporary forms of government with a focus on the rights of citizens, role of citizens and institutions, and the distribution of political power.  In doing so, students explore the relationship between the authority of a centralized government and the rights of its citizens, as well as the distinction between limited and unlimited governments. Students then focus on the American form of government with an emphasis on the historical context and the ideas and principles in the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution.  They analyze the compromises made to create the Constitution and examine the provisions the Founders included to delegate and limit the power of government. Next, students examine how the Constitution creates a democratic republic and the importance of the rule of law to our constitutional scheme.  They also investigate how ideas such as natural rights, social contract, popular sovereignty, limited government, and representative government are reflected in our foundational documents.  After examining some of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, students reflect on what is meant by a government “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people.”  In doing so, they consider the voluntary nature of citizenship in the United States, the means by which citizens effectuate change through civic engagement and the role civil disobedience has played in our society. The unit concludes with students identifying problems facing American citizens today and reflecting on how these issues are related to conflicting constitutional principles and/or fundamental values.  


Stage One - Desired Results

Compelling Question

How are both knowledge about American constitutional government and actions by citizens essential components of effective government?

Supporting Questions
  1. How have different views about human nature and the purposes of government resulted in different forms of government?
  2. How have ideas about government influenced constitutional principles and fundamental values in the United States?
  3. What is meant by a government "of the people, by the people, [and] for the people"?
Content (Key Concepts)


Bill of Rights


civil disobedience

civil society

constitutional government

constitutional principles

enumerated powers



governmental structures / forms of government


limited / unlimited government

natural rights

purposes of government


rule of law

social contract



Skills (Intellectual Processes)

Cause and Effect


Compare and Contrast


Identifying Perspectives


Stage Two - Assessment Evidence

Unit Assessment Tasks

Stage Three - Learning Plan

Lesson Plan Sequence


Chart paper


Computers for students with Internet Access


Document Camera, Overhead Projector, or Computer Projector






Student Notebook or Journal for the Citizenship Notebook


Student Resource

“Amendments.” Constitution Guide. Justice Learning. 22 July 2009


*American Government & Politics. ThisNation.com. 2 October 2015 http://www.thisnation.com/


“Articles.” Constitution Guide. Justice Learning. 22 July 2009


Brookings Institute.2 October 2015 http://www.brookings.edu/


The Cato Institute. 2 October 2015 http://www.cato.org


Center for American Progress. 2 October 2015 http://www.americanprogress.org


“Civil Disobedience The History of the Concept.” Science Encyclopedia. 2 October 2015 http://science.jrank.org/pages/8660/Civil-Disobedience-History-Concept.html#ixzz0L9NCVZCH&D


Confederate States of America. Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. Avalon Project at Yale Law School.2 October 2015 http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/csa/scarsec.htm


Declaration of Independence. Charters of Freedom. National Archives. 2 October 2015 http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html


Definitions and Notes. The World Factbook. US Central Intelligence Agency. 2 October 2015 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/docs/notesanddefs.html#2128


Democracy Glossary. Justice Learning. 22 July 2009


Facing Up to the Nation’s Finances. 22 July 2009


George Washington and Civic Virtue. Rediscovering George Washington. PBS. 2 October 2015



The Heritage Foundation. 2 October 2015 http://www.heritage.org/


Introductions: Guided Reading, The American Revolution. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. 22 July 2009


Issues. Justice Learning. 2 October 2015 http://www.justicelearning.org/Issues.aspx


King, Jr., Martin Luther. “Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.” MLK Online. 2 October 2015



Legal Immigration A to Z (101) How does it Work? Living in America. Reason.com.2 October 2015 http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.reason.com/images/07cf533ddb1d06350cf1ddb5942ef5ad.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.living-in-america.biz/blog/immigration/legal-immigration-a-z-101-how-does-it-work/&h=1584&w=2448&sz=2334&tbnid=2IErAwzXRHi6LM:&tbnh=97&tbnw=150&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dlegal%2Bimmigration&usg=__x3gJJ88eps6L8IMPa9yo8tSzKC8=&ei=SyFeSs7GHpGoMMqm8b8C&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=4&ct=image


“The Preamble.” Constitution Guide. Justice Learning. 22 July 2009


Primary Documents in American History. Library of Congress. American Memory Project. 2 October 2015 http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/help/constRedir.html


Public Agenda. 2 October 2015 http://www.publicagenda.org/


Types of Governments. CBBC Newsround. 2 October 2015 http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/find_out/guides/world/united_nations/types_of_government/newsid_2151000/2151570.stm


United States Constitution. Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute.2 October 2015 http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.overview.html


We the People Student Book. Center for Civic Education. 2 October 2015 http://www.civiced.org/index.php?page=wtp_hs02_sb


Teacher Resource

Antifederalists vs. Federalists. AP US History. 2 October 2015 http://chaffeyaphistory.homestead.com/files/RatificationDebate.html


Beeman, Richard R. A Republic if You Can Keep it: Perspectives on the Constitution. Constitution Center. 22 July 2009


“Composing the Constitution” American History: Foundations of American Government. United Streaming. 2 October 2015



*The Constitution: That Delicate Balance. Annenberg Foundation. 1984. 2 October 2015 http://www.learner.org/resources/series72.html#program_descriptions


*Constitutional Topic: The Constitutional Convention. US Constitution Online. 2 October 2015 http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_ccon.html


Declaration of Independence. Teacher Annotation. Edsitement. National Endowment for the Humanities. 22 July 2009


*“An Expression of the American Mind”: Understanding the Declaration of Independence. National Endowment for the Humanities. 2 October 2015 http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=723#01


The Federalist Papers. Avalon Project at Yale Law School. 2 October 2015 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/fed.asp


The Federalist Papers: No. 51. Avalon Project.Yale Law School. 2 October 2015 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed51.asp


The Federalist Papers: No. 14. The Avalon Project. Yale Law School. 2 October 2015 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed14.asp


“A Group of British Boys Is Stranded on a Deserted Island” Great Books: Lord of the Flies. United Streaming. 2 October 2015 http://search.discoveryeducation.com


Jean-Jacque Rousseau. The Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy. 2006. 2 October 2015 http://www.iep.utm.edu/r/rousseau.htm#H4


John Locke. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006. 2 October 2015 http://www.iep.utm.edu/l/locke.htm#Two%20Treatises%20of%20Government


“Key Constitutional Concepts.” Annenberg Foundation. 2 October 2015 http://sunnylandsclassroom.org/Asset.aspx?id=12


*Lesson Plan: The Declaration of Independence: From Rough Draft to Proclamation. Library of Congress. 2 October 2015http://myloc.gov/Education/LessonPlans/Pages/lessonplans/declaration/index.aspx


Lucas, Stephen E. Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence. National Archives. 2 October 2015 http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_style.html


*Madison Debates, May 31. The Avalon Project. 2 October 2015 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_531.asp


Maggs, Gregory E. “The Federalist Papers as Evidence of the Framers’ Original Intent.” A Concise Guide to the Federalist Papers. Boston University Law Review. 2 October 2015 http://www.bu.edu/law/central/jd/organizations/journals/bulr/documents/MAGGS.pdf


The Mayflower Compact. The Pilgrim Hall Museum. 2 October 2015 http://www.pilgrimhall.org/compcon.htm


Monk, Linda R. The Words We Live By. Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution. NY: Hyperion, 2003.


*Muchmore, Andrew. The English Bill of Rights and Its Influence on the United States Constitution. 2 October 2015 http://www.thegloriousrevolution.org/docs/english%20bill%20of%20rights.htm


Oakland Schools Teaching Research Writing Website: Skills Progression & Lessons http://www.osteachingresearchwriting.org/


“Philosopher Reading.” ESubjects.com. 2 October 2015 http://www.esubjects.com/curric/general/am_gov/unit_one/pdf/philosopher_reading.pdf


*Philosphers. Philosophy Resources on the Internet. 2 October 2015 http://www.epistemelinks.com/Main/MainPers.aspx


Plato. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2 October 2015 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato/


Plato’s Political Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2 October 2015 http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/platopol.htm


The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli Study Guide. Gradesaver.com. 2 October 2015 http://www.gradesaver.com/the-prince/study-guide/short-summary/


*Shenkman, Rick. 5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters. The Washington Post. 7 Sept. 2008. 2 October 2015 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/05/AR2008090502666.html?nav=most_emailed


Thomas Hobbes Political and Moral Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2 October 2015 http://www.iep.utm.edu/h/hobmoral.htm


Twyman, Debbie and Craig Whitney. Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau on Government. AP Government. 31 March 2009. 2 October 2015 http://www.twyman-whitney.com/apgovpol/readings/HobbesLockeMontesquieuandRousseauonGovernment.pdf


For Further Professional Knowledge

Bailyn, Bernard. To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders. New York: Knopf, 2003.


Barbour, Christine and Gerald C. Wright. Keeping the Republic: Power and Citizenship in American Politics, The Essentials, 4th ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2008.


Cigler, Allan J. and Burdett A. Loomis. American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1995.


Ginsberg, Benjamin, Theodore J. Lowi and Margaret Weir. We the People: An Introduction to American Politics, 5th ed. NY: W.W. Norton, Co., 2004.


Greene, Jack P. The Intellectual Construction of America. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ of North Carolina Press, 1997.


Kernell, Samuel and Steven S. Smith. Principles and Practice of American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2006.


- - - and Gary C. Jacobson. 2006. The Logic of American Politics. CQ Press. 4th ed., Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2008.


O’Connor, Karen and Larry J. Sabato. Essentials of American Government: Roots and Reform. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009.



* Although resources denoted with an asterisk are not cited in the lessons of the unit, they are included here to provide meaningful options for teachers.



MI: Social Studies (2007)
High School
Civics & Government
C1 Conceptual Foundations of Civic and Political Life
1.1 Nature of Civic Life, Politics, and Government Explain the meaning of civic life, politics, and government through the investigation of such questions as: What is civic life? What are politics? What is government? What are the purposes of politics and government?
1.1.2 Explain and provide examples of the concepts “power,” “legitimacy,” “authority,” and “sovereignty.”
1.1.3 Identify and explain competing arguments about the necessity and purposes of government (such as to protect inalienable rights, promote the general welfare, resolve conflicts, promote equality, and establish justice for all).
1.1.4 Explain the purposes of politics, why people engage in the political process, and what the political process can achieve (e.g., promote the greater good, promote self-interest, advance solutions to public issues and problems, achieve a just society).
1.2 Alternative Forms of Government
Describe constitutional government and contrast it with other forms of government through the investigation of such questions as: What are essential characteristics of limited and unlimited government? What is constitutional government? What forms can a constitutional government take?
1.2.1 Identify, distinguish among, and provide examples of different forms of governmental structures including anarchy, monarchy, military junta, aristocracy, democracy, authoritarian, constitutional republic, fascist, communist, socialist, and theocratic states.
1.2.2 Explain the purposes and uses of constitutions in defining and limiting government, distinguishing between historical and contemporary examples of constitutional governments that failed to limit power (e.g., Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union) and successful constitutional governments (e.g., contemporary Germany and United Kingdom).
1.2.3 Compare and contrast parliamentary, federal, confederal, and unitary systems of government by analyzing similarities and differences in sovereignty, diffusion of power, and institutional structure.
1.2.4 Compare and contrast direct and representative democracy.
C2 Origins and Foundations of Government of the United States of America
2.1 Origins of American Constitutional Government (Note: Much of this content should have been an essential feature of students’ 5th and 8th grade coursework. High School U.S. History and Geography teachers, however, revisit this in USHG Foundational Expectations 1.1, 1.2, and 2.1.) Explain the fundamental ideas and principles of American constitutional government and their philosophical and historical origins through investigation of such questions as: What are the philosophical and historical roots of the foundational values of American constitutional government? What are the fundamental principles of American constitutional government?
2.1.1 Explain the historical and philosophical origins of American constitutional government and evaluate the influence of ideas found in the Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights, Mayflower Compact, Iroquois Confederation, Northwest Ordinance, Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and selected Federalist Papers (such as the 10th, 14th, 51st), John Locke’s Second Treatise, Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws, Paine’s Common Sense.
2.1.2 Explain the significance of the major debates and compromises underlying the formation and ratification of American constitutional government including the Virginia and New Jersey plans, the Great Compromise, debates between Federalists and Anti-Federalists, debates over slavery, and the promise for a bill of rights after ratification.
2.1.3 Explain how the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights reflected political principles of popular sovereignty, rule of law, checks and balances, separation of powers, social compact, natural rights, individual rights, separation of church and state, republicanism and federalism.
2.2 Foundational Values and Constitutional Principles of American Government
Explain how the American idea of constitutional government has shaped a distinctive American society through the investigation of such questions as: How have the fundamental values and principles of American constitutional government shaped American society?
2.2.3 Use past and present policies to analyze conflicts that arise in society due to competing constitutional principles or fundamental values (e.g., liberty and authority, justice and equality, individual rights, and the common good).
2.2.4 Analyze and explain ideas about fundamental values like liberty, justice, and equality found in a range of documents (e.g., Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of Sentiments, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Patriot Act).
2.2.5 Use examples to investigate why people may agree on constitutional principles and fundamental values in the abstract, yet disagree over their meaning when they are applied to specific situations.
3.2 Powers and Limits on Powers
Identify how power and responsibility are distributed, shared, and limited in American constitutional government through the investigation of such questions as: How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?
3.2.1 Explain how the principles of enumerated powers, federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism, checks and balances, republicanism, rule of law, individual rights, inalienable rights, separation of church and state, and popular sovereignty serve to limit the power of government.
3.2.3 Identify specific provisions in the Constitution that limit the power of the federal government.
3.2.4 Explain the role of the Bill of Rights and each of its amendments in restraining the power of government over individuals.
4 System of Law and Laws
Explain why the rule of law has a central place in American society through the investigation of such questions as: What is the role of law in the American political system? What is the importance of law in the American political system?
3.4.1 Explain why the rule of law has a central place in American society (e.g., Supreme Court cases like Marbury v. Madison and U.S. v. Nixon; practices such as submitting bills to legal counsel to ensure congressional compliance with the law).
C5 Citizenship in the United States of America
5.1 The Meaning of Citizenship in the United States of America
Describe the meaning of citizenship in the United States through the investigation of such questions as: What is the meaning of citizenship in the United States? What are the rights, responsibilities, and characteristics of citizenship in the United States?
5.1.2 Compare the rights of citizenship Americans have as a member of a state and the nation.
5.2 Becoming a Citizen
Describe how one becomes a citizen in the United States through birth or naturalization by investigating the question: How does one become a citizen in the United States?
5.2.1 Explain the distinction between citizens by birth, naturalized citizens, and non-citizens.
5.2.2 Describe the distinction between legal and illegal immigration and the process by which legal immigrants can become citizens.
5.2.3 Evaluate the criteria used for admission to citizenship in the United States and how Americans expanded citizenship over the centuries (e.g., removing limitations of suffrage).
5.4 Responsibilities of Citizenship
Identify the responsibilities associated with citizenship in the United States and the importance of those responsibilities in a democratic society through the investigation of questions such as: What are the responsibilities associated with citizenship in the United States? Why are those experiences considered important to the preservation of American constitutional government?
5.4.2 Describe the importance of citizens’ civic responsibilities including obeying the law, being informed and attentive to public issues, monitoring political leaders and governmental agencies, assuming leadership when appropriate, paying taxes, registering to vote and voting knowledgeably on candidates and issues, serving as a juror, serving in the armed forces, performing public service.
C6 Citizenship in Action
6.1 Civic Inquiry and Public Discourse Use forms of inquiry and construct reasoned arguments to engage in public discourse around policy and public issues by investigating the question: How can citizens acquire information, solve problems, make decisions, and defend positions about public policy issues?
6.1.1 Identify and research various viewpoints on significant public policy issues.
6.2 Participating in Civic Life
Describe multiple opportunities for citizens to participate in civic life by investigating the question: How can citizens participate in civic life?
6.2.3 Describe how, when, and where individuals can participate in the political process at the local, state, and national levels (including, but not limited to voting, attending political and governmental meetings, contacting public officials, working in campaigns, community organizing, demonstrating or picketing, boycotting, joining interest groups or political action committees); evaluate the effectiveness of these methods of participants.
6.2.5 Describe how citizen movements seek to realize fundamental values and principles of American constitutional democracy.
6.2.6 Analyze different ways people have used civil disobedience, the different forms civil disobedience might take (e.g., violent and non-violent) and their impact.
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