Craig Benzine teaches you about the United States Congress, why it's bicameral, and what bicameral means. Learn what the senate and house of representatives are for, some of the history of the institutions, and just how you can become a representative. It's not that easy.
Craig Benzine teaches you about federalism or the idea that in the United States, power is divided between the national government and the 50 state governments. Craig will teach you about how federalism has evolved over the history of the U.S., what powers are given to the federal government, and what stuff the states control on their own.
The process of how a bill becomes a law can be pretty complex. As if just getting through committee isn't difficult enough, bills have to navigate a series of amendments and votes in both houses, potentially more committees, further compromise bills, and even more floor votes, just to end up on the chopping block of the President. The President can stop a bill in its tracks with a veto, but a presidential veto isn't necessarily the end of a bill's life.
In this lesson from iCivics, students take a look at two political thinkers that spent a lot of time trying to answer the question, "Why Government?" - Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. This lesson combines our Influence Library entries on these men and adds activities that ask students to compare and contrast Hobbes and Locke and to think about how these philosophers influenced those that followed in their footsteps.
In this video from PBSLearningMedia, Craig Benzine teaches students about the U.S. government's separation of powers and the system of checks and balances. In theory, the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch are designed to keep each other in check and to keep any branch from becoming too powerful. In reality, the system was designed to keep the president from becoming some kind of autocrat. For the most part, it has worked.
In this video from PBSLearningMedia, John Green teaches students that the Revolution did not start on July 4, 1776. The Revolutionary War didn't start on July 4 either. The shooting started on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and/or Concord, MA. Or the shooting started with the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. At least we can pin down the Declaration of Independence to July 4, 1776. Except that most of the signers didn't sign until August 2. The point is that the beginning of the Revolution is very complex and hard to pin down. John will lead you through the bramble of taxes, royal decrees, acts of parliament, colonial responses, and various congresses. We'll start with the end of the Seven Years War, and the bill that the British ran up fighting the war. This led to taxes on colonial trade, which led to colonists demanding representation, which led to revolution. It all seems very complicated, but Crash Course will get you through it in about 12 minutes.
**Sensitive: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class.
In this video from PBSLearningMedia, John Green teaches students about the United States Constitution. During and after the American Revolutionary War, the government of the new country operated under the Articles of Confederation. While these Articles got the young nation through its war with England, they weren't of much use when it came to running a country. So, the founding fathers decided to try their hand at nation-building, and they created the Constitution of the United States, which you may remember as the one that says We The People at the top. You'll learn about Shays' Rebellion, the Federalist Papers, the elite vs rabble dynamic of the houses of congress, and start to find out just what an anti-federalist is.
In this video from PBSLearningMedia, John Green teaches students where American politicians come from. In the beginning, George Washington was elected president with no opposition, everything was new and exciting, and everyone just got along. For several months. Then the contentious debate about the nature of the United States began, and it continues to this day. Washington and his lackey/handler Alexander Hamilton pursued an elitist program of federalism. The opposition, creatively known as the anti-federalists, wanted to build some kind of agrarian pseudo-paradise where every (white) man could have his own farm, and live a free, self-reliant life. The founding father who epitomized this view was Thomas Jefferson.
In this video from PBSLearningMedia, John Green finally gets around to talking about some women's history. In the 19th Century, the United States was changing rapidly, as we noted in the recent Market Revolution and Reform Movements episodes. Things were also in a state of flux for women. The reform movements, which were in large part driven by women, gave these self-same women the idea that they could work on their own behalf, and radically improve the state of their own lives. So, while these women were working on prison reform, education reform, and abolition, they also started talking about equal rights, universal suffrage, temperance, and fair pay. Women like Susan B. Anthony, Carry Nation, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Grimkes, and Lucretia Mott strove tirelessly to improve a lot of American women, and it worked, eventually. John will teach you about the Christian Temperance Union, the Seneca Falls Convention, the Declaration of Sentiments, and a whole bunch of other stuff that made life better for women.
In this video from PBSLearningMedia, John Green teaches students about Reconstruction. After the divisive, destructive Civil War, Abraham Lincoln had a plan to reconcile the country and make it whole again. Then he got shot; Andrew Johnson took over, and the disagreements between Johnson and Congress ensured that Reconstruction would fail. The election of 1876 made the whole thing even more of a mess, and the country called it off, leaving the nation still very divided. John will talk about the gains made by African-Americans in the years after the Civil War and how they lost those gains almost immediately when Reconstruction stopped. You'll learn about the Freedman's Bureau, the 14th and 15th Amendments, and the disastrous election of 1876.
**Sensitive: This resource contains material that may be sensitive for some students. Teachers should exercise discretion in evaluating whether this resource is suitable for their class
This is an interactive game from iCivics. The game is set in 1787, where the ink is still drying on the new Constitution. Will it become the law of the land or will it fall into the dustbin of history? The fate of the young nation is in their hands! Use this game to teach the big ideas at the core of the ratification debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Students will identify the main stances of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists between 1787 and 1789, understand the key debates surrounding the ratification of the constitution, including an extended republic, the House of Representatives, the Senate, executive power, the judiciary, and a bill of rights. Students will interact with the ideas, perspectives, and arguments that defined the ratification debate. They will explore the many different viewpoints, which spanned geographic regions, populations, and socio-economic class. Students will identify the building blocks of the proposed Constitution. They will engage with competing ideas in order to form an effective and cohesive set of arguments for, or against, ratification within a state. This game can be used during a lesson on the constitution to reinforce concepts or after the lesson as an assessment. This game can be played in a whole group or individually.
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In this interactive game from iCivics, students run their own firm of lawyers specializing in constitutional law. They decide if potential clients have a right, match them with the best lawyer, and win their case. The more clients you serve and the more cases you win, and the faster your law firm grows! This game can be played during a lesson on the constitution for reinforcement or after a lesson as an assessment. It can be played in a whole group or individually.
In this interactive game from iCivics, students will learn how to win power for state or federal government as they coach a team of players to develop persuasive arguments toward their side. Weaker arguments will make a player fall or even move the power toward the other side. This game can be played during a lesson on powers of state and local governments for reinforcement or after as an assessment. It can be played in a whole group or individually.
This is a video from Khan Academy on the Fourth Amendment which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. This video can be used to introduce a lesson on the Bill of Rights. The video is 14 minutes and 12 seconds in length.
In this activity, students critically examine the Constitution of the United States including the amendment process, its relationship with slavery, and the structure of the branches of government. Click the Download PDF or DOC button to access additional resources for this activity including a speech from Benjamin Franklin, several letters from George Washington, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, and sections from the Constitutional Convention.