Spears – Syllabus United States Government and Civics



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Spears – Syllabus



United States Government and Civics

Course Description


Students will study the purposes, principles, and practices of American government as established by the Constitution. Students are expected to understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens and how to exercise these rights and responsibilities in local, state, and national government. Students will learn the structure and processes of the government of the state of Tennessee and various local governments. The reading of primary source documents is a key feature of United States Government and Civics standards.

Graded Assignments


Weekly Reflections – 9 at 50 points per = 450 points

October 23, 30, November 6, 13, 20, 27, December 4, 11, 18

Each Friday, at the beginning of class, you will turn in a 250 word reflection on what you learned during the past week. You should utilize your best writing skills to convey your thoughts and take-aways from the week. Guided Questions will be presented at the beginning of each week. Some reflections will include parts of multiple units, so make sure to pursue completion daily.



Unit Readings – 7 at 25 points per = 175 points

October 27, November 6, 13, 20, December 4, 10, 16

For each unit you will complete two relevant outside readings to further your understanding of the subject material. For the units where readings are suggested, you should choose one from those listed. On the others, you may find readings that you think are both interesting and beneficial. In order to receive credit, you must complete a “Reading Review Worksheet” for each text, and submit that at the beginning of class on the day designated for “Unit Assessment”.



Unit Assessments – 7 at 100 points per = 700 points

October 27, November 6, 13, 20, December 4, 10, 16

These are the summative assessments over each of the seven units. These tests will include the following types of questioning options: multiple choice, list selection, short answer, and extended response. Also, assessments may include the requirement for submission of supporting assignments included within units.



Important People, Places, & Concepts – 200 points – December 16

As a culminating assignment for this class, you will turn in a portfolio that will include key people, places, and concepts that are essential for your understanding of United States Government & Civics.

For each unit, this portfolio will include a descriptive summary and visual for each of the following:

2 people


2 places

3 concepts

As well, the portfolio should be bound neatly in a 3 ring folder (no binder), and turned in during the week prior to the end of the semester.

Final Exam – 381 points – December 17/18

This comprehensive, summative assessment will take place at the end of the semester. It will cover a wide variety of the people, places, and concepts covered during this study of United States Government & Civics.



Total Grade – 1906 points*

A = 1763-1906 points

B = 1611-1762 points

C = 1420-1610 points

D = 1325-1419 points

F = 0000-1324 points


*In order for a student to receive credit for this class, ALL ASSIGNMENTS must be completed. If ANY assignments are missing at the end of the term, the student will receive an Incomplete regardless of the letter grade.

Units of Study


1-Principles of United States Government

  • GC.1 Cite textual evidence and evaluate multiple points of view to analyze the influence of ancient Greek, Roman, and leading European political thinkers such as John Locke, Charles-Louis Montesquieu, Niccolò Machiavelli, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and William Blackstone on the development of United States government.

  • GC.2 Determine the central ideas in passages from Democracy in America to examine the character of American society, including its religious, political, and economic character, as articulated by Alexis de Tocqueville. (H, P)

  • GC.3 Describe the purposes and functions of government as outlined in the Preamble to the Constitution and demonstrate an understanding of current application of those purposes and functions by identifying current government actions related to each of the six purposes.(P)

  • GC.4 Explain how the Constitution reflects a balance between the promotion of the public good and the protection of individual rights. (H, P)

  • GC.5 Summarize (CC) with supporting evidence why the Founding Fathers established a constitutional system that limited the power of government. (H, P)

  • GC.6 Describe the systems of enumerated and shared powers, the role of organized interests (Federalist Number 10), checks and balances (Federalist Number 51), the importance of an independent judiciary (Federalist Number 78), implied powers, rule of law, federalism, popular sovereignty, and civilian control of the military. (P)

  • GC.7 Analyze how the Bill of Rights limits the powers of the federal government and state governments. (P)

  • GC.8 Assess the claims, reasoning, and evidence of various authors to analyze the tensions within our Republic and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: (H, P)

    • Majority rule and individual rights

    • Liberty and equality

    • State and national authority in a federal system

    • Civil disobedience and the rule of law

    • Freedom of the press and censorship

    • Relationship of religion and government

    • Relationship of legislation and morality

    • Government regulation and free enterprise

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from the Magna Carta; Mayflower Compact; English Bill of Rights; Two Treatises of Civil Government, John Locke; Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson; excerpts from The Federalist Papers – 1, 9, 10, 39, 51, 78; excerpts from the Constitution; excerpts from Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville; “The Social Contract” by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Consider: excerpts from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr.; “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, Malcolm X; Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

2-Branches of Government and Federal Power

  • GC.9 Analyze Article I of the Constitution as it relates to the legislative branch, including eligibility for office and lengths of terms of representatives and senators; election to office; the roles of the House and Senate in impeachment proceedings; the role of the vice president; the enumerated legislative powers; and the process by which a bill becomes a law. (P)

  • GC.10 Describe in order the steps of the process through which the Constitution can be amended. (P)

  • GC.11 Identify current representatives from Tennessee in the legislative branch of the national government. (P, TN)

  • GC.12 Analyze Article II of the Constitution as it relates to the executive branch, including eligibility for office and length of term, election to and removal from office, the oath of office, and the enumerated executive powers. (P)

  • GC.13 Analyze Article III of the Constitution as it relates to judicial power, including the length of terms of judges and the jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court. (P)

  • GC.14 Explain the processes of selection and confirmation of Supreme Court justices. (P)

  • GC.20 Explain how conflicts between levels of government and branches of government are resolved (supremacy clause, checks and balances). (P)

  • GC.21 Analyze the processes of lawmaking, including the role of lobbying and the media. (P)

  • GC.22 Identify the organization and jurisdiction of federal, state, and local courts and the interrelationships among them. (P)

  • GC.23 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events through textual evidence to analyze the scope of presidential power and decision-making related to significant examples, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, passage of Great Society legislation, War Powers Act, Gulf War, and intervention in Bosnia. (H, P)

  • GC.24 Identify and explain powers that the Constitution gives to the President and Congress in the area of foreign affairs. (P)

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from the Constitution; the Bill of Rights

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: informational and primary source text related to the events in GC.23

3-The Supreme Court and the Constitution

  • GC.15 Evaluate various interpretations and determine which explanations best accord with textual evidence to understand the changing interpretations of the Bill of Rights over time including interpretations of the basic freedoms (religion, speech, press, petition, and assembly) articulated in the First Amendment and the due process and equal-protection-of-the-law clauses of the 14th Amendment through examination of the following cases: (H, P)

    • Mapp v. Ohio

    • Tinker v. Des Moines

    • Engel v. Vitale

    • Schenck v. United States

    • Gideon v. Wainwright

    • Brandenberg v. Ohio

    • Texas v. Johnson

    • Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union

  • GC.16 Analyze judicial activism and judicial restraint and the effects of each policy over time (e.g., the Warren and Rehnquist courts). (H, P)

  • GC.17 Assess and cite textual evidence to evaluate the effects of the United States Supreme Court’s interpretations of the Constitution in Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, and United States v. Nixon and the arguments espoused by each side in these cases. (H, P)

  • GC.18 Explain the controversies that have resulted over evolving interpretations of civil rights, including those in: (H, P)

    • Plessy v. Ferguson

    • Brown v. Board of Education

    • Miranda v. Arizona

    • Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

    • United States v. Virginia (VMI)

    • New Jersey v. TLO

    • Roe v. Wade

    • Korematsu v. United States

    • Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

  • GC.19 Write an opinion piece with supporting details that argues whether to interpret the U.S. Constitution as a "living document" or to determine the “original intent” of the Founding Fathers. (H)

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from the United States Supreme Court cases listed in the standards

4-Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens/Fundamentals of a Free Society/Civil Rights

  • GC.35 Analyze the meaning and importance of each of the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights and how each is secured (e.g., freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition, and privacy). (P)

  • GC.36 Explain how economic rights are secured and their importance to the individual and to society, including the right to acquire, use, transfer, and dispose of property; right to choose one’s work; the purpose of labor unions; copyrights and patents. (P)

  • GC.37 Describe the individual’s legal obligations to obey the law, serve as a juror, and pay taxes. (P)

  • GC.38 Connect insights gained from appropriate informational text to describe the obligations of civic-mindedness, including voting, being informed on civic issues, volunteering and performing public service, and serving in the military or alternative service. (P)

  • GC.39 Describe the reciprocity between rights and obligations that is enjoying rights means fulfilling certain obligations and respecting the rights of others. (P)

  • GC.40 Explain how one becomes a citizen of the United States, including the process of naturalization. (P)

  • GC.41 Summarize the central ideas of iconic primary documents to identify the fundamental values and principles of a free society and evaluate their meaning and importance, including the writings and speeches of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

  • GC.42 Explain how civil society provides opportunities for individuals to associate for social, cultural, religious, economic, and political purposes. (C, P)

  • GC.43 Explain how civil society makes it possible for people, individually or in association with others, to bring their influence to bear on government in ways other than voting and elections. (C, P)

  • GC.44 Examine the historical role of religion and religious diversity and their impact on society. (C, H, P)

  • GC.45 Compare and contrast the relationship of government and civil society in constitutional democracies to the relationship of government and civil society in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. (H, P)

  • GC.46 Describe the Civil Rights Movement and analyze resulting legislation and legal precedents. (C, H, P)

  • GC.47 describe the women’s rights movement and analyze resulting legislation and legal precedents. (C, H, P)

  • GC48 Identify legislation and legal precedents that established rights for the disabled, Hispanics, American Indians, Asians, and other minority groups, including the tensions between protected categories (e.g., race, women, veterans) and non-protected ones (United States v. Carolene Products, Adarand Constructors v. Pena). (C, H, P)

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from the Constitution; the Bill of Rights

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Consider: The Declaration of Independence, 1776; Gettysburg Address, 1863; “Four Freedoms” speech, Franklin Roosevelt; Inaugural Address 1961, John Kennedy; “A Time for Choosing,” 1964 speech, Ronald Reagan.

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Consider: excerpts from Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolution 1848; “I Have a Dream” speech, and Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr.

5-Elections and the Political Process and the Influence of Media

  • GC.25 Analyze the origin, development, and role of political parties. (H, P)

  • GC.26 Explain the history of the nomination process for presidential candidates and the increasing importance of and difference between primaries, caucuses and general elections. (H, P)

  • GC.27 Analyze appropriate textual evidence to evaluate the roles of polls and campaign advertising, and examine the controversies over campaign funding. (P)

  • GC.28 Describe the means that citizens use to participate in the political process (e.g., voting, campaigning, lobbying, filing a legal challenge, demonstrating, petitioning, picketing, and running for political office). (P)

  • GC.29 Explain the features of direct democracy in numerous states (e.g., the process of initiatives, referendums, and recall elections). (P)

  • GC.30 Examine information in diverse formats and media to analyze trends in voter turnout and the causes and effects of reapportionment and redistricting. (P)

  • GC.31 Analyze the function of the Electoral College. (H, P)

  • GC.32 Cite textual evidence to defend a point of view about the meaning and importance of a free and responsible press. (P)

  • GC.33 Describe the roles of broadcast, print, and electronic media, including the Internet, as means of communication in American politics. (P)

  • GC.34 Explain how public officials use the media to communicate with the citizenry and to shape public opinion. (P

6-Federal Government and the Economy

  • GC.49 Explain how the role of government in a mixed economy includes providing for national defense, addressing environmental concerns, defining and enforcing property rights, attempting to make markets more competitive, and protecting consumer rights. (E, P)

  • GC.50 Explain the aims of government fiscal policies (taxation, borrowing, and spending) and their influence on production, employment, and price levels. (E, P)

  • GC.51 Describe how the government responds to perceived social needs by providing public goods and services. (E, P)

  • GC.52 Explain major revenue and expenditure categories and their respective proportions in the budgets of the federal government. (E, P)

  • GC.53 Describe how federal tax and spending policies affect the national budget and the national debt. (E, P)

7-Tennessee State and Local Government

  • GC.54 Identify and describe the provisions of the Tennessee Constitution that define and distribute powers and authority of the state government. (P, TN)

  • GC.55 Provide examples of the principles of federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, and popular sovereignty in the government of the state of Tennessee and the balance between the grand divisions within the state. (P, TN)

  • GC.56 Explain the hierarchy and functions of the Tennessee court system, including the distinction between Chancery and circuit courts and identify the current chief justice of the state supreme court. (P, TN)

  • GC.57 Summarize the functions of departments or agencies of the executive branch in the state of Tennessee. (P, TN)

  • GC.58 Compare and contrast the legal, fiscal, and operational relationship between state and local governments in Tennessee. (E, P, TN)

  • GC.59 Explain the differences among the types of local governments in Tennessee, including county government, city government, and metro government. (P, TN)

  • GC.60 Describe how citizens can monitor and influence local and state government as individuals and members of interest groups. (P, TN)

  • GC.61 Write an opinion piece with supporting details regarding the specific ways individuals can best serve their communities and participate responsibly in civil society and the political process at local, state, and national levels of government. (C, P, TN)

  • GC.62 Identify current representatives (per the student’s respective district) in the Tennessee General Assembly and research their past and current proposed legislation that has significantly impacted the lives of Tennesseans. (P, TN)

  • GC.63 Identify the current governor of Tennessee and examine his/her platform for improving the quality of life in Tennessee. (P, TN)

  • GC.64 Working with other students, identify a significant public policy issue in your community, gather information about that issue, fairly evaluate the various points of view of competing interests, examine ways of participating in the decision making process about the issue, and write a position paper or make a presentation on how the issue should be resolved. (C, P, TN)

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: The Tennessee Constitution








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