Foundations of Democracy


Each unit of study is broken down into a series of essential objectives and learning points.  Each objective requires a context of understanding.  You will find that context here.  Remember learning follows after Darwin not Newton.  Redesigning and reviewing is always a work in progress.  In the end we hope that by distilling the content of American government and politics to its bare essentials a larger number then before can count themselves as educated citizens.  Without such a citizenry our hope for a bright future is in peril.

  • How did the founders of the U.S. Constitution attempt to protect individual liberty, while also promoting public order and safety?

  • How have theory, debate and compromise influenced the U.S. Constitutional system?

  • How does the development and interpretation of the Constitution influence policies that impact U.S. citizens?

Unit 1: Foundations of Democracy


The U.S. Constitution arose out of important historical and philosophical ideas and preferences regarding popular sovereignty and limited government.  To address competing states’ visions for the allocation of governmental authority, compromises were made during the Constitutional Convention and ratification debates, and these compromises have frequently been the source of debate and negotiation in U.S. politics over the proper balance between federal and state power and between liberty and social order.


Enduring Understandings:


  • A balance between governmental power and individual rights has been a hallmark of American political development. (Liberty and Order)

  • The Constitution emerged from the debate about weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation as a blueprint for limited government. (Constitutionalism)

  • The Constitution creates a complex competitive policy-making process to ensure the people’s will is represented and that freedom is preserved. (Competing policy-making interests)

  • Federalism reflects the dynamic distribution of power between national and state governments. (Constitutionalism)


Learning Objectives:


  1. Explain how democratic ideals are reflected in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

  2. Explain how models of representative democracy are visible in major institutions, policies, events, or debates in the U.S.

  3. Explain how Federalist and Anti-Federalist views on central government and democracy as reflected in U.S. foundational documents.

  4. Explain the relationship between key provisions of the Articles of Confederation and the debate over granting the federal government greater formerly reserved to the states.

  5. Explain the ongoing impact of political negotiation and compromise at the Constitutional Convention on the development of the constitutional system.

  6. Explain the constitutional principles of separation of powers and “checks and balances.”

  7. Explain the implications of separation of powers and “checks and balances” for the U.S. political system.

  8. Explain how societal needs affect the constitutional allocation of power between national and state governments.

  9. Explain how the appropriate balance of power between national and state governments has been interpreted differently over time.

  10. Explain how the distribution of powers among three federal branches and between national and state governments impacts policy-making.

Traditional Literacy

New Literacy

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"Always it is by bridges that we live."

                                          Philip Larkin

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