Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies



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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