Civics: Understanding the U.S. Constitution
The goal of Civics: Understanding the U.S. Constitution is to give students a brief but thorough introduction to the background,
text/structure, and development of the U.S. Constitution. Students will demonstrate their
understanding by writing essays in which they explain both sides of a present-day Constitutional
controversy, and argue persuasively for their own point of view.
Students will watch recorded lectures and complete reading assignments as class preparation.
Class sessions will be Socratic discussions of the prepared material. Through the class
discussions, students will clarify and deepen their understanding of the concepts; they will also
gain practice in explaining others’ ideas and arguing for their own positions.
Here is a brief outline of topics we will cover in this Civics course:
a. How did America’s revolution-era history affect the ideas of the Constitution?
b. What is the common law, and what role does it play in our political system?
c. How do earlier documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Articles
of Confederation, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, help us understand and
apply the Constitution?
2. Text & Structure.
a. What do the words say, and what do they mean?
b. How does the Constitution allocate authority between the branches of government
(separation of powers)?
c. How does the Constitution regulate relations between the Federal Government
and the States (division of powers)?
d. How does the Constitution balance order and freedom? Majority rule and
a. How did the first officeholders, such as George Washington, put “meat on the
bones” of the Constitution?
b. Why was the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution?
c. What does the Constitution say about slavery?
d. How is the Constitution interpreted?
This Civics will allow your student to gain a full and thorough understanding of the U.S. Constitution and develop a sense of what it means for them personally. This is a 1/2 credit courses and can be counted for Government, U.S. History, Civics or elective credit.
It would be even more powerful and effective if paired with our Forensics course; being offered this semester through STOA, led by Jared Burdick.