Documents of Freedom
Table of Contents and PDF of Full Activity Collection Available Here
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An Introduction to Documents of Freedom
In this introductory unit, students will be given an overview of the entire course as well as an introduction to Founding principles and virtues necessary for a successful constitutional republic.
The Foundations of American Goverment
America's Founders looked to the lessons of human nature and history to determine how best to structure a government that would promote liberty. They started with the principle of consent of the governed: the only legitimate government is one which the people themselves have authorized. But the Founders also guarded against the tendency of those in power to abuse their authority, and structured a government whose power is limited and divided in complex ways to prevent a concentration of power. They counted on citizens to live out virtues like justice, honesty, respect, humility, and responsibility.
The Purpose of Government
The structural or institutional features of the American constitutional order only make sense in the context of what the Founders hoped to achieve--securing the right of the American people to live decent, worthwhile lives according to their own goals and faculties. The thoughtful preservation of those institutions, occasionally through necessary corrective measures, depends on a proper understanding of what it is that they are designed to promote as well as an appreciation of how to manage those institutions to serve the best interests of the American people. All of this requires a citizenry with the skills and dispositions necessary for republican self-government, that is, a citizen body whose members understand and act to promote justice.
The Tradition of Rights
Rights claims have always been central to American political discourse. In the Founders' view, no human being is so decisively superior to other adult human beings that he is entitled to direct their actions without their express consent. By Nature all adult human beings, regardless of their race, sex or class, are free to rule themselves or, what is the same, to exercise the same "inalienable rights," including the right to life, physical liberty, acquire and use property, marry and raise children, communicate one's opinions, and worship God according to the dictates of one's conscience.
Liberty and Equality
In this unit, students will learn about the struggles for liberty and equality throughout American history.
Citizens in Communities
During the War of Independence, British North Americans expanded the principles of federalism and separation of powers by being among the first Europeans to codify their practices in written constitutions. Several colonial charters and their subsequent revisions established a practice of protecting the interests of towns, villages, and communities by securing their economic interests as well as their participation in colonial governments.
The evidence seems overwhelming that free enterprise and widespread economic prosperity are more than just connected; the first leads directly to the second, not just in America but around the world.
Our Commercial Republic
Our commercial republic is rooted in the ideas of John Locke and Adam Smith.
The United States and the World
This unit discusses America's impact on the world and how foreign relations affect the United States and other countries around the world.
Being an American
Through primary source analysis, writing assignments, discussion prompts, and other activities, students will "connect the dots" by focusing on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, civic values, American heroes, and exploring the meaning of citizenship to them.
Congress and the Constitution
The First Branch: Congress and the Constitution guides students on a tour of the legislative branch of the government of the United States. Through primary source analysis and engaging activities, students will examine the purpose of a legislature, the design of the U.S Congress, its powers, its history and the reality of how Congress works today. This curriculum also includes an interactive model Congress project that puts students in the seats of legislators, helping them better appreciate the real challenge of making a bill become a law.
Preserving the Bill of Rights
Preserving the Bill of Rights teaches students Constitutional principles by examining primary source documents and significant Supreme Court cases. In addition, each unit features expanded classroom activities engaging students with the Bill of Rights and the responsibilities of citizenship. Students will understand the connection between current events and the Bill of Rights when they participate in activities such as writing letters to their elected representatives; serving in a mock jury; creating public service announcements; and writing model laws.