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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Examining the Constitution

HW due Friday: Read 63-77 and take the reading quiz.

Please take a moment and complete this survey.

Today we are going to examine and mark up the Constitution. Unfortunately, our pocket constitutions are still not in yet, but we will still be able to annotate using a copy of the Constitution found on this GoogleDoc.  Make a copy for yourself and highlight and annotate using the comments feature.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Constitutional Convention

The Articles of Confederation was clearly failing and Shays' Rebellion highlighted the problems the new government was having. As a result, Congress authorized states to send delegates in the summer of 1787 to Philadelphia to revise the Articles. This became known as the Constitutional Convention and led to the creation of the world's longest lasting written constitution. Central to the convention was the series of compromises made by the delegates to help achieve consensus.

Key Questions:
1. What were the key differences between the Virginia and New Jersey plans?
2. How did the Great Compromise solve the dilemma of representation?
3. How was the issue of slavery handled at the convention? How did that impact the future of our country?

Here's a Crash Course video on the compromises made at the Convention:

Another video focusing on the representation and slavery compromises:

Here's a Hip Hughes video on the Convention:

Here are a few more websites on the Constitutional Convention:

How did compromises help create a more unified nation at the Constitutional Convention?

Exploring Constitutional Conflicts: The Constitutional Convention

Regent's Prep: Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Rights Foundation: The Major Debates at the Constitutional Convention

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Articles of Confederation

Homework for Tuesday: Read 53-63 in Janda and take the reading quiz.

We've declared our independence and won the war against England. Now what? During the Revolutionary War, a new document was created designed to help organize the states and coordinate their efforts against England. This document, the Articles of Confederation, lasted less than a decade before being replaced by our current Constitution. Despite its failures, much can be learned from the Articles.

Key Questions:
1. What was the basic structure of government under the Articles of Confederation? What did the government look like?

2. What were the weaknesses under the Articles of Confederation?

3. How does Shays' Rebellion illustrate the problems under the Articles and lead to the Constitutional Convention?

After watching these videos, write down what the government structure looked like under the Articles of Confederation. You should have at least three key points about the government.

Next, go to this webpage and read about the failures under the Articles of Confederation. Create a t-chart with the first column labeled Weaknesses under the Articles and the second column titled Constitutional Fixes. Fill in the first column with the weaknesses described from the website. We'll fill in the other side later this week.

Additional readings for more understanding:

Boundless: Articles of Confederation and Powers Under the Articles

OpenStax: Articles of Confederation

Lumens: Articles of Confederation

Constitution Center: 10 Reasons Why the Articles of Confederation Failed

Another video by HipHughes to review the Articles:

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Declaration of Independence

Paper due Monday!

Homework due Tuesday: Read 53-63 in Janda and take the reading quiz.

July 4, 1776 is considered by many to be the birthdate of the United States as we declared our independence from England. Today we will examine the Declaration of Independence and its importance in the founding of our country. Specifically, we will look at the ideas behind the document and the influence of John Locke.

The Declaration of Independence

Key Questions:
1. What are the differences between John Locke and Thomas Hobbes and their views on human nature?

2. How did John Locke influence Thomas Jefferson and the writing of the Declaration of Independence?

Declaration of Independence Scene from John Adams mini-series

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Who Governs?

Homework due Thursday: Read 36-50 and take the reading quiz.

Who governs? Who really makes the policy decisions? Whose views do they represent? There are three competing theories that try to answer the question of who governs.

Who Governs?

1. How does pluralism answer the question who governs?

2. How does elite theory answer the question who governs?
3.  Who makes up the power elite according to C. Wright Mills? How is membership obtained?

4.  What common values do the elite possess?

5.  “What’s good for GM is good for America.” Explain this statement and how it relates to elite theory.

6. What are “trunk decisions” and how does this support elite theory?

7. What is majoritarianism? How does it work?

8.  Which theory do you think best answers the question of who governs?

9. Find one recent policy decision that represents pluralism. What groups were involved in the debate?

10. Find one recent policy decision that represents elite theory. Explain how this is elite theory at work.

Is this characteristic/statement true of Majoritarianism, Pluralism, or Elite Theory?

1. Requires specialized knowledge from groups of citizens

2. Derives power from the continuing success of America’s largest corporations

3. Based on rule of the majority

4. Citizens need some working knowledge of government

5. Favors a tax code with loopholes that favor the upper bracket

6. This allows minorities to control the government

7. Rotary Club, National Rifle Association, Chamber of Commerce

8. Has vast wealth and business connections

9. Prefers a decentralized government allowing easy access to government officials

10.  Elections are the main mechanism in making decisions

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Freedom, Order, & Equality

Homework due Thursday: Read 36-50 in Janda and take the reading quiz

Homework due Wednesday:Read background articles on pluralism and elite theory. Take notes over the reading including a one sentence summary of each theory and supporting points. Write down questions you have about the articles.

Due Monday: Campaign Paper Guidelines

Identification Terms: Chapter 1 & 2

Today we are going to look at the competing values of freedom, order and equality.

IDEAlog Quiz

Freedom, Order, or Equality
Read each statement carefully.  Evaluate whether the statement as worded is promoting the value of freedom, order, or equality.

1.    The death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime and is necessary for justice to be served.

2.   The government should encourage, rather than restrict school-led prayer.

 3.   Victimless crimes such as prostitution and recreational drug use should be legalized.

 4.   Students have a right to privacy and school officials do not have a right to search student lockers.

 5.   The flag is more than a piece of cloth.  It represents our country and people should not be allowed to mistreat it.

 6.   Affirmative action programs encourage equality of all and are necessary to rectify past mistreatment of minority groups.

 7.   The Supreme Court should uphold the Roe v. Wade decision and keep abortion legal in the United States.

 8.   The individual is basically responsible for his or her own well being, so the government should not provide welfare to the poor.

 9.   Illegal immigrants are a burden to our society and economy and should be deported immediately.

 10.   The federal government should guarantee the rights of homosexuals, including gay marriage. This includes wedding cakes, but NOT birthday cakes. That's an entirely different matter.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Types of Government (Part 1)

Homework for Monday: Read pg. 1-10 in Janda and complete the reading quiz.

Today we are looking at various forms of government found throughout the world. First, discuss this question with your group:

It does not matter what type of government is in place as long as the citizens are well-fed, healthy and safe. Agree or disagree?

There are many ways to classify government systems, but the most common method was developed by Aristotle that is based on the number of rulers. However, you can also classify governments based on where power is located (national vs. state) or based on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches. The types of government that we are going to look at today are:

  • Anarchy
  • Absolute Monarchy
  • Confederal
  • Constitutional Monarchy
  • Dictatorship
  • Direct Democracy
  • Federal
  • Oligarchy
  • Parliamentary
  • Presidential
  • Plutocracy
  • Republic
  • Theocracy
  • Unitary
Please make a copy of  this document and fill out the charts describing/explaining each system of government and provide examples (either historic or modern day) of each. Use the videos and readings/links below to help you.

Forms of Government

Systems of Government

What is the difference between presidential and parliamentary systems?


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Purposes of Government

Homework due Monday: Read 1-10 in Janda and complete the reading quiz.

What is the purpose or function of government? Today we are going to look at several purposes of government as outlined in the preamble to the Constitution.

Here's a video that shares people's thoughts on the purpose of government:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

President-elect Trump

In one of the biggest political shockers of American history, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States last night. How did it happen and what does it mean? Today we will read a few articles about the election and its consequences.

Polling: How Could the Polling Be So Wrong?

The Electoral College: Shades of 2000: Hillary Surpasses Trump in Popular Vote

Considering What America's Choice of Donald Trump Really Means

Unified Government: Republicans Are Poised to Grasp the Holy Grail of Governance

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day!

We made it. Today is the day. Election Day!

First, cast your ballot

Next, test your political prognosticator skills and fill out the handout on the Electoral College and predict who will win.

Finally, let's mess around with the Electoral College map on 270toWin.

Here are a few articles to help us understand today's proceedings:

When Will We Know Who the Next President Is?

Presidential Election: Trump or Clinton?

Friday, November 4, 2016


HW for Tuesday: Please read 11-20 and complete the reading quiz.

Our main focus in this course is on the United States system of government, and specifically how a democracy (representative democracy) operates. Today we will take a closer look at what constitutes a democracy and what are the necessary conditions for democracy to be successful. We will conclude with evaluating whether democracy will be successful in countries like Iraq and Egypt as they try to transition from autocratic government systems.

Article: Is Democracy Possible in Egypt?

Article: War Without End: Why Iraq Can Never Be a Stable Democracy

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The NRA: The Power & Politics of Interest Groups

Tomorrow is the FRQ section of the midterm. You will answer one of the five questions that I gave you last week. Here are some tips on how to answer FRQ questions:

One of the largest and most successful interest groups in the United States is the NRA. Despite the recent mass shootings in the US, the NRA has successfully blocked repeated attempts to enact stricter laws regulating gun use.

Frontline has an excellent documentary on the rise of the NRA as a political force and its actions in response to tragedies at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook elementary.

The Washington Post has a good infographic that demonstrates the NRA's use of money in electing pro-gun rights members to Congress.

1. Vox: Why the NRA is so Powerful

2. Washington Post: NRA Tactics-Take No Prisoners

3. CBS News and the Politics of Gun Control.

4. This Week: How the NRA Won

5. NY Times: Inside the Power of the NRA

Using the above information, explain three different tactics/reasons that the NRA utilizes to help explain its success.