Around the room are display boards to which are affixed depictions of historical events: Plymouth Colony, John Locke, Map of Exploration 1400-1620, Chronology of the Revolutionary War 1754-1783, Declaration of Independence, Preamble of the Constitution and the Six Big Ideas in the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, Thomas Paine—Common Sense, Famous quotes….
Homework to bring in on the first day: write an essay about what the American Dream means for you and your family. . Second time, all students can participate Watch the video “Shining City on a Hill” together with your family, Listen to the NPR podcast, How I Built This, or just write from your personal experience.
- read and discuss the essay homework
- Read the Declaration of Independence aloud.
Discuss Vocabulary and phrases, e.g. “all men are created equal”, etc. Discuss Happiness/Property, the tension between Equality and Liberty (the difference between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity). “self-evident truths”, “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God” in the first paragraph.
Activity to explore the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Choose a contest: a race, arm wrestling, a pushup contest. Choose a prize for the winner. First time; only short students can participate (or brown eyed students—any sub-group). Others just watch. Second time, everyone is free to participate. All students compete for the prize and in the end, the prize is given to all the students (first prize for all). How does it feel to be excluded, how does it feel to have all levels of energy and exertion rewarded the same.
- Break up into three groups to discuss how the pledges of the Declaration will or have added to/subtracted from your American Dream – report back to the full group.
- What other problems/events was the Declaration addressing? Teacher discusses the pictured events surrounding the room and, when appropriate, points out the relationship of the image with the ideas of the Founders, such as Limited Government to protect Natural Rights, Government by consent of the Governed, Individual Liberty for all, vs liberty for those chosen by the Government, Religious Freedom, Separation of Power, Property Rights for All, Habeas Corpus.
- Homework: Memorize the verses of the Declaration on Independence up to the word Government in the second paragraph. Watch a video about e.g. the Boston Tea Party https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cT_Z0KGhP8
- Read the Constitution
- Choose a topic from the displays and prepare to present it to the class.
- Class recites the Declaration in a round table format.
- History overview: Students discuss their topics. How did Private Property, Natural Rights, Limited Government by consent of the Governed, Separation of Powers reflect a change in the relationship between government and the governed.
- Show the Kahn Academy video on Hobbes/Locke and the social contract.
Discussion of human nature, natural rights and the individual as founding principles which, to protect, call for Limited Government and Rule of Law. Discuss the relationship between a person’s need for self-determination and intrinsic motivation, a free-market economy, property rights and Limited Government (see Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, 1776).
Write a social contract for the class—focus on a need the class wants to achieve for everyone. Is it necessary to give up individual liberty in exchange for protection?
- Introduction to the Constitution
Overview: The Articles of Confederation were not working: Shay’s rebellion.
Refer back to the Kahn video on the social contract.
Discuss other ideas the founders wanted the Constitution to express: the rule of law; government by consent of the governed, popular sovereignty.
- Watch the Kahn video on the preamble to the constitution.
Representational government; a Constitutional Republic.
Activity about the three branches of government: Who has the Power? Discuss recent impeachment hearings—how were the three branches of government involved? Natural tension between Executive and Legislative branches. Judiciary is there to resolve.
Review Separation of Powers: US vs Alvarez.
- Homework: together with parents, read Federalist Papers #10
Write a short paragraph about Madison’s view of human nature and its contribution to factions. How does Madison use the term “property”? How will minority rights be protected? Has human nature changed since 1776?Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Read the handout: George Washington’s Farewell Address.
- Review homework; discuss your paragraph on Federalist #10
- Watch green mountain party video about difference between a democracy and a republic:
- Hand out a list of the 6 big ideas of the Constitution, with definitions: limited government, republicanism, checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, popular sovereignty.
- Activity: Mock Convention; students take on the role of the founders, representing big states/small states and free/slave states; bios are available.
The lesson teaches about the Great Compromise and the 3/5 compromise
- Discuss the anti-federalists and the Bill of Rights. How do the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights protect individual liberty for all? Why did these amendments satisfy the anti-Federalists?
- Hand out sheets describing debates on the subjects of Equality, Natural Law, Rule of Law, Separation of Powers and Limited Government. Discuss briefly and assign a final paper to be turned in the day after the final class: Students chose one topic to compose an essay about, taking one side or the other, and referring to one or more current events that are relevant.
- Why did Washington (and Hamilton) write the Farewell address, warning that the Republic could be destroyed by political factions, strong alliances with other countries?
A family trip to Boston will be awarded the student whose class participation and final essay make them eligible as the winner!! Final Essay will be assigned at the end of class, to be submitted to the website.