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american gov't

Discussion Points | Activities
Test Your Knowledge | All About
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all about american govmt
Let's learn all about the thing that keeps the United States running—the government. By the time we're through, you may just know enough to start your own government…
Click here to review everything covered in this episode of Standard Deviants TV. go!
time codes
  1. Introduction to Government 1:01:23
    1. The Origins of American Government 1:02:40
    2. Types of Government 1:05:30
    3. Characteristics of American Democracy 1:07:05
  2. All the Stuff That Happened Before the Constitution Was Written 1:08:15
    1. Origins of a New Nation 1:08:15
    2. The Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation 1:13:13
    3. The Constitutional Convention 1:15:43
  3. The United States Constitution 1:18:00
    1. The Basic Principles of the Constitution 1:18:20
    2. The Articles of the Constitution 1:20:15
    3. The Drive for Ratification 1:23:50
discussionPoints
1. Throughout American history, the balance of power has shifted between the national government and state governments. Who would you say has more power now, the national government, the state governments, or neither? Do you think this will change in the near future?

2. What are some reasons the Constitution has been amended infrequently? How does the relative infrequency of amendments affect how we view the Constitution?

3. Which of the first three articles of the Constitution most clearly defines the powers of each branch of government?

4. What influence did the anti-federalists have on the Constitution?

5. Which of the six main components of American Democracy (popular consent, popular sovereignty, majority rule, individualism, equality, and personal liberty) do you think Americans are most passionate about? The least?

6. Is the third amendment still necessary? Should it be repealed?

activities
Pretend that while you are visiting your relatives overseas, your plane makes a pit stop in the country of Corruptica. As you debark the plane to stretch your legs, police officers tackle you and accuse you of murdering a shopkeeper five years ago!

You profess your innocence (this is your first time in Corruptica), but the officers ignore your pleas. They bring you to the police station and sit you down in a windowless room with one chair. The police captain, a tall man with a thin, brown mustache, comes out and tells you the following:

"We have another person we suspect of committing the crime," says the captain, "but we don't know which one of you did it. So here is what we will do. If both of you admit you are guilty, then we will realize we may have made a mistake, and we will give you only one year each. If one of you admits guilt, and the other says he is innocent, the guilty person will get five years, and the innocent person will be allowed to leave."

"But if both of you profess you are innocent"—and at this point the captain glares at you—"then we will realize both of you are lying thieves, and we will sentence you each to ten years in our prison."

You start to sweat. These people are loony! What are you going to do?

Things to consider:
1. You don't know who the other person is.
2. You can't talk to her (or him).
3. You will never see that person again.
4. Your Aunt Merthyl is going to kill you if you're late for dinner.

If you were thinking only about what is best for you, what would you tell the captain? What would the other person likely do? What is likely to happen?

This problem is called the Prisoner's Dilemma. The point is to show how each participant can act rationally (saying you are innocent) and the result can be much worse than if each participant acted "irrationally" and cooperated.

To Think About:
• Considering the Prisoner's Dilemma, what might be one of the reasons governments exist?
• What can governments do to avoid situations like the Prisoner's Dilemma, such as arms races and trade barriers?
• What situations like the Prisoner's Dilemma exist today?

testKnowledge
Click here to go to the test.

american gov't

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did you know?
Trivia
You think high-ranking public figures were more congenial in "the old days"? Think again: on July 11, 1804, in Weehawken, New Jersey, during a pistol duel, former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr mortally wounded the former Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
 
vocabulary
amendment — An addition, alteration, or other change to a constitution or other legal document.

aristocracy — A form of government in which a privileged few rule.

Articles of
Confederation
— Ratified in 1781, this was the first constitution of the United States. It created a government that received its power from a confederation of semi-sovereign states.

bicameral — A system of government in which the legislature consists of two parts. In the United States federal government, these parts are the Senate and the House of Representatives.

constitution — A document or set of documents in which the laws or principles of a government are laid out.

Declaration of Independence — Document adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, that asserted the thirteen American colonies' independence from England.

democracy — A form of government in which the people have the power to rule themselves.

enumerated powers — A group of key powers the First Article of the Constitution explicitly gives to Congress. Examples include the power to tax, coin money and regulate commerce.

federalism — A governmental principle that calls for a strong national government, with some power given to individual states.

monarchy — A form of government in which hereditary rulers (kings and queens) hold power over the people.

natural law — The political theory that says society should be governed by certain ethical principles.

oligarchy — A form of government in which a relatively small body of individuals who govern possess high levels of wealth, social or military status, or achievement.

popular consent — Political theory asserting that people should be able to participate directly in the governing of their own societies.

social contract
theory
— Likens a society's government and its citizens to parties entering into a contract. In this theory, individuals are considered free, so they give their consent when they agree to be governed.

supremacy clause — Principle of the Constitution that holds that the laws of the Constitution and the nation as a whole are supreme in regard to any laws enacted by states.

 
resources
Explore some websites related to American Government. Remember, you will be leaving the Standard Deviants TV website.
Related Sites

Check out the Declaration of Independence!

Check out the Articles of Confederation!

Check out the United States Constitution!

Check out the Bill of Rights!

    
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