WE THE PEOPLE – Essential Questions

Should 8th graders care about how the government works?

What’s one of the most commonly asked questions about the material presented in history class? “Why do I have to know this stuff?” When it comes to the government, most of you may think that the government doesn’t really touch your lives … but think again, my fine young political scientists. We will see in a class activity and throughout the entire unit that the government touches each of our lives in countless ways.

Did the young United States need a new government in 1787?

The young United States had a new government in 1787, one decent enough to help it win a war against the most powerful country on the planet. So why did the new country wipe out that form of government and create an entirely new one only 11 years after declaring independence? We will find out in a class activity and assignment.

How was the Constitution a “Miracle at Philadelphia”?

George Washington himself referred to it as “nothing less than a miracle”, and Catherine Drinker Bowen called the writing of a Constitution the “Miracle at Philadelphia”. What was so amazing about the construction of this document in 1787? What did the “Framers” do in the Pennsylvania state house that has, with few changes, lasted until the present day? The best way to answer this question is to relive the events of the Constitutional Convention, so that’s what we will do. Get ready to role play!

Does one person or group have too much power in the government?

As we will see throughout the unit (and the rest of history class), the different levels of government and different branches of government all have defined and undefined powers that often work successfully together and at other times clash with great force. What do the different levels and branches do? How do they work together? Do the systems of federalism and checks and balances work successfully, then and now? Let’s find out by examining our government, yesterday and today, and hopefully developing an understanding for tomorrow.

What are my rights?

We hear people say it all the time – “I have the right to _______________”. But what exactly do we have the right to do? How do those rights change if we are under 18? An examination of the Bill of Rights and some actual court cases will set the stage to a further understanding of our rights as American citizens.

Do you want to party with the Democrats or Republicans?

You can’t look at government today without examining political parties, can you? Democratic, Republican, Blue State, Red Sate, donkey, elephant … they are all over the place, especially in the fall of an election year (like 2014). So, we will take a look at the basics of what political parties do and a little bit about what they stand for … and I will let you make the choice to answer this question.

Should we fix the Electoral College?

The President of the United States is considered to be the most powerful individual on the planet … but did you know that, in actuality, only 538 people have the opportunity to elect a person to this office? We will take a look at the basics of the Electoral College and try to determine if this is the best way to elect the leader of the United States.

What are the characteristics of a good citizen?

The job of a social studies teacher, first and foremost, is to develop productive citizens for the future of our burgeoning democracy (sounds pretty cool, huh?). But what exactly does a good citizen do? How do they act? What should they know? These topics will serve as an overarching query during the entire unit, as we dive headfirst into the government of the United States and the political world of American citizenry.

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