Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

TITLE:  Planning a Government

AUTHOR:  Jeff Norris, Sparks High School, NV

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:  9-12, government

OVERVIEW:  At the beginning of the year of a government
class, students are amazingly ignorant about just what
government is and does, even though they are confident that
they can, indeed, define government and its functions.  This
activity relates directly to that situation.

PURPOSE:  This activity is used during the first week of
school in a required high school government class, to help
the students begin to become familiar with the nature of
government, and with one another.

OBJECTIVES:  As a result of this activity, the students
  1.  List at least fifteen purposes to any government.
  2.  Hypothesize about the connection between type of
      governmental system and type of economic system.
  3.  Explain the difference between foreign and domestic
      policy and give examples of the functions or goals of
  4.  Write a paragraph, based on this activity, answering
      the question, "What is government?"

  Secondary objectives include:
  1.  Breaking the ice among classmates by having this
      activity done within groups of four or five students.
  2.  Beginning to demonstrate the importance of
      terminology, since students probably will have to
      resort to glossaries and dictionaries to attempt
      answering the questions.
  3.  Creating anticipation on the part of students for the
      multitude of topics to be covered in government class.

ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES:  About the second or third day of
class, without advance notice, arrange the class into
cooperative learning groups of four or five students each.
Give the groups a short description of a fictional (or real)
country facing some distinct domestic and international
difficulties.  Then, tell the groups that they are now the
ruling oligarchy for this country, and that they must:
  1.  Devise a political system.
  2.  Structure an economic system to allow for the
      development of the state.
  3.  Decide who will vote, if anyone.
  4.  Decide how law and order will be maintained.
  5.  Sketch the broad outlines of a foreign policy.
  6.  List the priorities for domestic policy goals.
      (A sample of this is attached.)
  Allow the students to work on this for a couple of days.
Play dumb when they ask questions, so as to force them to
become resourceful in finding answers through reference
materials and getting acquainted with their textbook.  For
example, some students will probably happily tell you that
their government is going to be socialism.  You need merely
respond that socialism is not a governmental system, and
smugly walk away, leaving it up to them to find out what you
  At the conclusion of the group work, read each group's
responses and allow for open discussion of them.  Do not
evaluate them yourself, but rather ask questions leading to
the formulation of questions or ideas on the part of the
  Play by ear.  It is useful to end by summarizing the
various topics related to this activity that are necessarily
a part of the government course of study.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER:  As described above, through class
discussions.  Sometimes it is also useful to take the group
papers and annotate them.  Note vague terms, fallacies of
reasoning in what will probably be some simplistic answers
to the questions, and so on, and then return the papers the
next day.   Allow some time for students to discuss the
annotations, but it is generally a good idea not to grade


  Freedonia is an imaginary colony of Imperia.  For the past
ten years, there has been a widespread guerrilla war along
the western frontier.  The object of this war is to achieve
independence, which is now scheduled for January 1st.  For
the last six months, black leaders have been gradually
taking over most of the country's administration.  This has
been followed by a flight of skilled whites.
  The Imperians have controlled Freedonia since the 1500's.
Many of the white families have lived in Freedonia for more
than 100 years.  Most of the people speak Imperianese.  Five
different tribes are represented in the country.  These
tribes generally speak their own language and practice
different religions.  About 25 percent of the people are
Christian.  Thirty-one percent are Moslem, and the others
practice native religions.  During recent years, relations
among tribes have been strained because one tribe, the Ino,
controls most of the important administrative positions even
though they make up only 21 percent of the population.
  Most Freedonians are very poor.  The per capita income is
only $156.  The primary industry is agriculture.  The major
exports are cotton, coffee, cloves, and cashew nuts.  Many
of the large plantations are foreign-owned, and there is
substantial foreign investment in other industries as well.
Little heavy industry has been developed, although the
Imperians have built two large automobile assembly plants
during the past five years.
  Freedonia has an area of 52,000 square miles (136,500
square kilometers).  It has a population of 8,300,000 and
has a high birth rate.  About 85 percent of the people live
along coastal lowlands and in the Naja River basin.  The
capital, Freedonia City, has doubled its population in the
last five years.
  Freedonia shares borders with four other countries.  One
was formerly an Imperian colony and is ruled by a member of
the Ino tribe.  The other two are less friendly.  One has
received military and economic aid from the Soviet Union,
which now has a large naval base there.  The other is a
country with which Freedonia has a longstanding boundary

Instructions:  You are to plan a government for Freedonia.
Your plan should answer the following questions.  Be sure to
state the reasons you decided on a particular answer to
these questions.

a.  What type of political system will you recommend?
b.  What economic system will allow the greatest development
    of the nation's potential, but provide benefits for all
    the people?
c.  Who will vote?
d.  Who will maintain law and order?  How?
e.  What foreign policy should the government pursue?
f.  What domestic policies should the government give first
    priority to?


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