Mark W. Dean, Capital High School, Santa Fe, NM ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT Appropriate for grades 9-12. OVERVIEW: What does one mean by the word "government?" What first comes to mind might be the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., your state capitol, or even your local city hall. Others may interpret government as being the elected officials (president, congressmen and congresswomen, state representatives, mayors, and councilmen) that represent it. Many others see law enforcement officers and the rules and regulations they enforce as being government. Finally, some may view government as being the closest authority over them--school officials (teachers) and the rules they must enforce. PURPOSE: The intent of this activity is to introduce students to the meaning of the word "government." The students will examine why society needs a government to exist. The activity can also serve as an introduction to exploring the foundations of American democracy and government: The Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to: 1. State the reasons as to why a government is essential, and identify the services it provides. 2. Define the meanings of the words "republic" and "democracy" (direct and representative), identifying ideas by values found in the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. 3. List and understand the basic freedoms that are guaranteed to all Americans through the Bill of Rights. ACTIVITIES: 1. Write the following statement on the chalkboard: TO BE FREE, ONE MUST BE CHAINED. Have the students take 5-10 minutes to write down what this statement represents in a half-page or less. After completion, have each student read his/her paper while listing the main points under the statement on the chalkboard. 2. Wouldn't it be possible for all Americans to live as they choose with total freedom and without a government establishing limits on our individual freedoms? Do we, as a society really need rules and regulations to enforce cooperation among individuals? Lead the students in a discussion that should lead to a resounding "yes" for the need for governments. Then, have the students identify the foundations of American government. List the pros and cons of each document and the ideas or beliefs they represent on the chalkboard. 3. Finally, have the students examine how they, as individuals, play a very important role in the function of government. Have the students answer the following questions: a. What are your duties and responsibilities as a citizen of the United States? b. What is the role you play in government? (These two questions may be used as a homework assignment) RESOURCES/MATERIALS NEEDED: The Foundations of American Government: The Declaration of Independence The Articles of Confederation The Constitution The Bill of Rights TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: Finish with a discussion about what a perfect society consists of. Help the students understand that if a society could function without a government (Anarchy), it would only work as long as every person is in total cooperation with every other person. This is unlikely, and therefore, a government, for the people, is absolutely necessary.
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