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Principles of American Government

Course Overview

After an initial review of the Constitutional Foundations, this course then proceeds with students analysis of economic, political, and social dilemmas and the responses of the government by researching and reviewing U.S. public policy. Some of these major events are the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Rights, ADA, Social Security, and other relevant topics. Next, the course looks at political participation by United States citizens and the influences of Mass Media, Public Opinion, and Freedom of Expression on the United States Government. The major focus of the second semester will be on public policy from the many different components that make it possible for the negotiation, implementation, and ramifications of public policy.

Course Content

Unit 1: Constitutional Foundations

This unit is an exploration of the foundation of the U.S. Constitution as a blueprint for government. It is meant to help remind students of what they learned in A History of the United States, and the connections to constitutional foundations/changes of the United State Government. Students identify and discuss where political power originates and how is it exercised. How political practices and institutions relate to other aspects of historical development. It then uses the major federalists and anti-federalists arguments to underscore the major political compromises achieved in establishing the U.S. Constitution. Students will complete a constitutional scavenger hunt, charting shifts in federalism using case law of the Supreme Court, and the civil war. This unit ends with the root causes of the establishment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment, which acts as segway into Unit II on Civil Rights and Public Policy.

Unit 2: Civil Rights and Public Policy

The focus of the unit will be on how the government has responded to various civil rights initiatives. How these groups use the framework of the government to advance their causes. The unit focuses on events such as reconstruction and its impact on African Americans, the growth of the women’s suffrage movement, various ethnic groups, and immigration laws and reform.

Unit 3: Mass Media, Public Opinion, and Freedom of Expression

This unit introduces students to their own political socialization in light of major social issues and political ideologies in American life. Students will also explore the various opportunities for political participation. The class then looks at the role of Mass Media from its emergence to the way that it serves as an intermediary between the government and the governed. The unit ends with students reviewing U.S. Supreme Court cases and issues regarding Freedom Expression.

Unit 4: Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Campaigns and Elections

This unit will explore the influence of political parties and interest groups on the political process. It starts with a collaborative project where students learn and teach about how political parties have changed through U.S. history and how modern political parties have emerged. Students will learn about the differences between a political party and a special interest group, how each is involved in the campaign process, and how each can galvanize civic participation. Students will discover how the campaign process, voting behavior, and Electoral College functions. This will culminate in a guided activity where students will research, defend or refute historical examples of successful lobbying initiatives based on constitutional merit.

Unit 5: Institutions

This unit applies the checks and balances from Unit I by exploring the interplay between the three branches of government in creating, debating, passing and enforcing public policy, both domestic and foreign. Students will also explore the interplay between elected officials and the civil servants who make up the bureaucracy of federal and regulatory agencies. Students will also use the federal budget as a case study on the balancing of the many foreign and domestic policies and issues. After being assigned a state, students will research a self-generated topic based on their state, students will create their own public policy and attempt to enact said policy through a congressional simulation.