Gov: Constitution Unit

citizenship-test  Government classes: Constitution Unit Pretest

A preliminary test administered to determine a student’s baseline knowledge about the U.S. Constitution.

Government Homework:
1. Independence Quiz – tomorrow (Tuesday 10/1)


Honor Gov: Judicial Branch Unit

citizenship-test   Honors Gov class: Judicial Branch Pretest

A preliminary test administered to determine a student’s baseline knowledge about the judicial branch.

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Amendments Quiz – Wednesday 10/2
2. Constitution Quiz II – close Thurs 10/3


Honors Gov

Paw - Excellence_sm This paw is for those who scored 13+ on their quiz.


Gov: Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention

Without money or the ability to impose taxes, the Confederation Congress could not maintain an army for the defense of the states. The weaknesses in the Articles led to widespread financial issues that eventually forced amendments to the Articles in order to provide economic stability. A growing number of Americans were ready to agree to a strong national government.

Economic problems, national security concerns, and internal disturbances demonstrated the need for a stronger central government and led Congress to call a convention in May 1787 to revise the Articles. However, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention chose instead to create a new political system for America.

The Constitution forged at that convention was designed to provide for a government in which political power would limited yet adequate to govern. The Framers wanted to ensure that the government they were creating would not itself be a threat to freedom. Delegates to the convention struggled with many issues, especially how to allocate seats in Congress and how to deal with the issue of slavery. Finally, a compromise was reached that formed a bicameral Congress with the House of Representatives based on population, and the Senate with two members from each state. Other compromises allowed counting three-fifths of enslaved persons for purposes of House representation and taxes, giving Congress the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, and using the Electoral College system to elect the president.

Government Homework:
1. Constitutional Convention notes
2. Chapter 2 Quiz III – close Monday 9/30
3. Chapter 3 Independence Quiz – Tuesday 10/2


Honors Gov: Quiz and Amendments

Dog Taking Test  Good luck on your quiz   Paw - Integrity_sm


Other Amendments

We completed our lesson on the amendments to the Constitution, We started with  look at the Civil War Amendments: Thirteen, Fourteen, and Fifteen, which were the result of that conflict. The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment, similar to the Fifth Amendment, prohibits a state from depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits the government from denying a person’s right to vote on the basis of race. The later amendments, Sixteen through Twenty-seven, were added in the twentieth century. They deal with a range of topics that reflect some of the changes that occurred in American society during that period such as advances in the status of workers, African Americans, and women.

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Other Amendments notes 
2. Read Chapter 4 pp.134-137
3. Amendments Quiz – Wednesday 10/2


Gov: U.S. Constitution


The Constitution provides the basic framework for American government. It also guarantees the rights and freedoms that we, as Americans, sometimes take for granted. The Constitution is a three-part document, consisting of the Preamble, the articles, and the amendments. Adopted as the “law of the land” in 1788, it is the oldest written constitution still in use anywhere in the world. The Constitution serves as both a practical outline for government and a symbol of our national way of life. Learning about the Constitution not only helps us understand the rights and freedoms we enjoy as Americans, but also gives us tools to defend those freedoms.

The Preamble is a single, long sentence that defines the broad purposes of the republican government created by the Constitution. It begins with the phrase “We the people,” signifying that power and authority in our system of government come from the people, not the states. The Preamble goes on to set various goals for the nation under the Constitution. These goals are expressed in a series of key phrases. “Form a more perfect union.” The framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure cooperation among the states, and between the states and the national government. “Establish justice.” The framers hoped to create a system of government based on fair laws that apply equally to all people. “Ensure domestic tranquility.” The framers wanted government to ensure peace and order. “Provide for the common defense.” The framers wanted the government to protect the nation against foreign enemies. “Promote the general welfare.” The framers hoped the government would ensure the well-being of the citizens. “Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The framers hoped to guarantee freedom for Americans, then and in the future.

The main body of the Constitution consists of seven articles. These seven articles are further divided into sections and clauses. The first three articles establish the three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judicial – and define their powers. These articles lay out the basic structure of the national government. The four remaining articles of the Constitution cover various subjects, including relations among the states, the supremacy of national law, and the amendment process.

The framers never meant for the Constitution to provide a complete and detailed blueprint for government. In general, the framers made broad statements and left it to political leaders to work out many of the specific details of governing. They also built in an amendment process, in Article V, that would allow for formal changes to the Constitution. They hoped that this flexibility would allow the Constitution and the government to endure.

Government Homework:
1. Constitution notes
2. Read Chapter 3.4 pp.51-55
3. Chapter 2 Quiz III – close Sunday 9/29


Honors Gov: Amendments

Amendment 5   The Fifth Amendment includes protections for people accused of crimes: the right to a grand jury and protections against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, and government seizure of property without just compensation. It also requires that the national government follow due process of law. Self-incrimination was meant to prevent law enforcement officials from pressuring suspects into admitting guilt for a crime they did not commit.

In Miranda v. Arizona, Ernesto Miranda was arrested at his home and taken in custody to a police station where he was identified by the complaining witness. He was then interrogated by two police officers for two hours, which resulted in a signed, written confession. The Court set forth a procedure for ensuring that suspects know their rights. These rights of the accused became known as Miranda rights.

Amendment 6  The Sixth Amendment guarantees additional rights to the accused: to have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, to hear and question witnesses, and to be defended by a lawyer.

In the case of Gideon v. Wainwright, Clarence Earl Gideon was unable to afford an attorney. He asked the court to provide him free legal counsel, however, Florida courts provided such services only in death penalty cases. The judge turned him down and Gideon was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Gideon filed an appeal that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. The justices sided with Gideon, arguing that the Sixth Amendment guarantee of legal counsel should not depend on the defendant’s ability to pay.

In the case of Sheppard v. Maxwell, Sam Sheppard’s wife was murdered at the couple’s home. Sheppard claimed that an armed intruder had knocked him unconscious and then killed his wife. The Cleveland press covered the story relentlessly, in a manner that implied Sheppard’s guilt. Sheppard appealed his conviction arguing that biased press coverage had prevented him from getting a fair trial. The Court overturned the murder conviction, agreeing that coverage of the trial had “inflamed and prejudiced the public.” Although the Court acknowledged the media’s First Amendment rights, it said that press coverage should not be allowed to interfere with a defendant’s right to due process. In cases where intense media coverage might unfairly influence a trial, the trial should be moved to another location or the jury should be isolated from all news coverage.

Amendment 7   The Seventh Amendment assures the right to a jury trial in civil cases. Civil cases do not involve criminal matters.

Amendment 8    The Eighth Amendment protects against excessive bail or fines and forbids cruel or unusual punishment. Bail is money given over to the court in exchange for a suspect’s release until his or her trial begins. Most of the legal challenges to this amendment have involved the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. In Furman v. Georgia, the Court focused on the death penalty. It concluded that capital punishment was cruel and unusual when it was inconsistently and unequally applied from one case to another. Too often people convicted of a capital crime received very different penalties. One might be sentenced to life in prison while the other was condemned to death. The Court’s decision put a sudden halt to all executions in the United States. In Gregg v. Georgia, the Court concluded that the death penalty was constitutional under the new laws. As a result, capital punishment became a sentencing option in most states.

Amendment 9     The Ninth Amendment provides that people’s rights are not restricted to those specified in Amendments 1 through 8. Some of these unlisted rights were later protected under other amendments and laws. In the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, Estelle Griswold, an official with the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, had been arrested for providing medical advice to married couples on how to prevent pregnancy. Her actions violated a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives. In its decision, the Court declared that the law violated marital privacy rights. The Court said that it was an implied right in the First, Third, and Fourth amendments. The Ninth Amendment provides further support by stating that a right need not be cited in the Constitution to be valid.

Amendment 10    The Tenth Amendment restates that any powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the states are reserved to the states and to the people. In the case of United   States v. Morrison, the Violence Against Women Act that allowed victims of domestic violence to sue their attackers in federal court. The Court struck down this law saying that violent crime between individuals was an issue for the states not the federal government.

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Chapter 3 Quiz I – Friday 9/27
2. Chapter 2 Quiz III – close today @ 6:00 PM


Gov: Articles of Confederation


The Articles of Confederation was only one of many new plans of government drafted during the war. Each of the 13 states also needed a constitution. As leaders in each state set about this task, they found few models to guide them. England did not have a written constitution. Its system of government was based on an assortment of laws, policies, and customs developed over the centuries. When it came to writing formal constitutions, the Americans were on their own.

The national government created under the Articles of Confederation was much weaker than the governments established in the states. Although some members of Congress wanted a strong central government, the majority preferred a loose confederation, with most powers remaining at the state level. Although the Articles gave Congress powers, these powers were mainly lawmaking and usually unenforceable.

After the war, states began setting up trade barriers and quarreling among themselves. Matters came to a head when farmers, led by Daniel Shays, attacked a federal arsenal in Springfield, Massachusetts. Although Shays’ Rebellion was finally put down by state troops, it revealed how little Congress could do to hold together the increasingly unstable country.

Government Homework:
1. Articles of Confederation notes
2. Chapter 2 Quiz II – close Thurs 9/26


Gov: Social Science Analysis Frame

Frame the Event, Issue, or Problem
Defining and clarifying an issue so that its features are well-understood.

  • Identifies and provides a reasonable explanation of the significance of an event, issue, or problem.
  • Introduces and defines most of the critical components of the event, issue, or problem (who, what, when, where, why).

Girl_writes_4  Declaration of Independence

  1. If you were trying to explain this document to someone who had not read it, what would you say about it?
  2. What did the author want readers to learn from this selection?
  3. What information/facts led you to this conclusion?

Government Homework:
1. Chapter 2 Quiz II – close tomorrow (Thursday 9/26)


Honors Gov: Interpreting the Bill of Rights

With the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution, Americans were guaranteed a broad range of civil rights and civil liberties. But these were only formal guarantees. The enforcement of these rights was another matter. These rights and freedoms would be safeguarded only when protections were built into the structure of government. That is where the role of the Supreme Court and other federal courts come into play. Before free speech and other rights on paper could be safeguarded, the language of the Bill of Rights had to be interpreted and applied under actual circumstances. That task would fall to the Supreme Court under its power of judicial review.

first-amendment   The First Amendment protects the freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, and the rights of assembly and to petition the government. These rights are critical to life in a democratic society.

Freedom of religion which can be divided into two parts: the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause guarantees the separation of church and state. It reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Free Exercise Clause establishes that all people are free to follow the religious practices of their choice. They are also free to follow no religion. If a person’s religious faith conflicts with the law of the land, however, the law must prevail.

The case of Engel v Vitale challenged the recitation of a standard prayer each day in New York’s public schools. In its decision, the Court struck down the practice. State-sponsored prayer in schools was wholly inconsistent with the Establishment.

Jehovah’s Witnesses view pledging allegiance to the flag as a form of idolatry prohibited by the Bible. In West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, the Court said that Jehovah’s Witnesses could refuse to salute the flag. Their right to do so was protected under their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.

In Lemon v Kurtzman, using public funds to support private religious schools was unconstitutional. This case established a three-point “Lemon test” to determine if and when a government action violates the Establishment Clause. To be constitutional, a government action must have a secular, or nonreligious, purpose; neither help nor hurt religion; not result in an excessive entanglement of the government and religion.

Freedom of speech is the second right listed in the First Amendment. It acts like an anchor for all the other rights in the amendment, because they are all linked in one way or another to free expression.

In the case of Brandenburg v Ohio, a Ku Klux Klan leader was arrested for giving a speech advocating illegal activities. In its decision, the Court offered a two-part test to determine whether a clear and present danger exists that might justify suppressing free speech. First, such speech has to be directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action. Second, the speech must be likely to incite or produce such action. The Court found that the Klan leader’s speech, though containing hateful statements, was unlikely to produce any unlawful actions.

Gregory Lee Johnson had been arrested in Texas for burning a flag to protest government policies. His actions violated a state law against flag desecration. In Texas v Johnson, the Court concluded that flag burning as an expression of opinion was protected symbolic speech. It said that a state could not prohibit such actions, even if it found them offensive.

Freedom of the press was listed separately in the First Amendment to underscore its importance in a free society. The right to petition the government to solve problems was originally considered the more important of the two. But over time, the right to assemble has taken on a larger role and has been the issue in many cases.

The Near case involved a newspaper that Minnesota officials wanted to shut down. The paper had published articles exposing political corruption. In Near v. Minnesota, the Court declared such attempts at prior restraint to be unconstitutional. The Court declared that a government had no right to call for prior restraint. Keeping information from being published could be allowed only under very special circumstances, such as protecting national security. If officials were worried about possibly libelous articles, they could sue the publisher after the materials were in print.

second-amendment   The Second Amendment protects the rights of states to maintain a militia and of citizens to bear arms. Today lawmakers and citizens still argue over the exact meaning of the Second Amendment. Was it intended to apply only to a militia, or were all citizens guaranteed the right to “keep and bear arms”?

In the United States v. Miller case, the Court supported the conviction of two men who had failed to register a sawed-off shotgun. The Court’s decision directly tied gun ownership to militias. Because militias never used sawed-off shotguns for common defense, the Court determined that government had the right to regulate such weapons.

third-amendment   The Third Amendment restricts quartering of troops in private homes during peacetime. Although the Third Amendment has little direct application today compared to colonial times, it offers a general guarantee for the privacy and sanctity of people’s homes.

fourth-amendment   The Fourth Amendment protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” This means that law enforcement officials may not search a person’s home or property without prior consent or a legal order. A warrant must be based on probable cause, or reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior. It must also be very specific in describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

The case of Katz v. United   States hinged on recordings of a suspect’s conversation made from a public phone booth. Because the recording device was placed outside the booth and recorded only the suspect’s voice, the police believed they did not need a warrant. The Court disagreed and concluded that a warrant was required because the suspect had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a phone booth.

In the case of Terry v. Ohio, three men’s behavior caused a police officer to suspect that they were about to rob a store. After questioning the men, the officer frisked them by patting down the outside of their clothing. Two of the suspects had guns, and they were later convicted for carrying concealed weapons. The men appealed their conviction claiming that the officer did not have probable cause to frisk them. The Court decided that the officer’s observations provided adequate cause for the search. His actions and suspicions were reasonable given the behavior of the suspects.

Honors Gov Homework:
1. Amendments notes
2. Chapter 3 Quiz I – Friday 9/27
3. Read Chapter 4 pp.117-123
4. Chapter 2 Quiz III – close Thursday 9/26