Watch the PBS Series Constitution USA with Peter Sagal. There are 4 one hour episodes that are available to stream at pbs.org. You can choose to only watch one or to watch them all. You must complete the questions for the episode(s) you watch on another piece of paper.
Episode 1: Federalism
Segment 1: Constitutional Battle Ground State
Is it fair that a local business owner has to be caught between the laws of the state and federal government? Whom should he listen to?
Who wins—state or federal power? Why?
What did the Founding Fathers have in mind when they created a shared power system?
Why don’t DEA agents shut down the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, CA?
How could the Commerce Clause of the Constitution apply to medical marijuana?
How has our understanding of our rights changed over time?
Why does it seem like the definitions to these rights change over time?
Segment 7: Privacy
When and where can you be searched without a warrant?
Give some easy examples of how people can dig into your privacy.
Did you know that your online social media outlets are allowed to use your info? Does that make you re-evaluate your online activity?
Do you believe, like the people at Twitter, that what you tweet is private?
Do we have a reasonable expectation of privacy online?
The first ten amendments are written to balance individual rights and rule of law by the government.
Through court cases, interpretation and laws, have we struck the right balance?
Is technology putting cracks in the Bill of Rights? Where?
The Bill of Rights was established to protect our rights, and the original Constitution was established to give us the framework through which we can fight for rights. Has this two-part system given us an adequate pathway to use our rights and responsibilities?
Episode 3: Equality
Segment 1: Becoming part of We the People…part I
“We the People?” is a very complicated concept. In 1787 women did not have the right to vote, but they were clearly citizens and represented by the phase, “We the People.” So, arguably, were free blacks, though not slaves. What do these words mean to you today?
Segment 2: Becoming part of We the People…part II
In this segment you will be introduced to the new founding fathers and the three Amendments they added to the Constitution.
Read each of the three amendments, then write what they say and what they mean. List below what rights they have granted and what new rights are people using them for in current constitutional struggles.
What it says
What it means
Rights it guarantees
What is a current struggle?
Segment 3: Equal Protection…part I
Robert George explains that the 14th Amendment is set-up to stop racial discrimination. In the Loving case it protects marriage because race is being used to discriminate but the courts will decide if it will protect gay marriage. What types of inequality will the 14th amendment allow?
Do you agree with this? Where should those limits be?
Segment 4: Equal Protection…part II
Who gets to vote depends on which amendment was passed?
Listen to this clip and spell out the three votes that expand voting rights. Write down the amendment, what year it was passed, and the citizens who gains the voting rights.
Segment 5: Equal Protection…part III
The right to vote can be taken away. Take a closer look at the 14th Amendment while watching this clip. Why would the 14th Amendment take away someone’s rights, when it was meant to protect them?
Do you think that this is fair?
Segment 6: Affirmative Action
What is the reason for Affirmative Action?
Why was it established and how does it protect the rights of the minority? In this clip examine the unintended consequence of Affirmative Action.
Insuring freedom is always an active balancing act, how would you suggest insuring the needs of fair employment move forward?
Segment 7: Football and Education
The 14th Amendment protects any persons in America, not just citizens. Where are the limits on the 14th Amendment? Should there be any?
Does the 14th Amendment apply outside the country?
Segment 8: Rights of Privacy…in the bedroom or any room.
Where does the right to privacy begin and end? Think about all the possible places you have an expectation of privacy. List them
Segment 9: Economic Liberty
Is economic liberty essential to the pursuit of happiness in America?
Examine the case of the monks. Where in the 14th amendment is economic liberty spelled out?
Episode 4: We the People
Segment 1: Crowd-sourcing Iceland
Iceland is in the middle of building a new constitution. The tactic they are using to keep this document as much by the people as for the people is crowd-sourcing their national charter.
What are the pros of writing their constitution in this manner?
Are there cons as well?
Did our Founding Fathers crowd-source in 1787?
Segment 2: The Long View
How did the Founders give the Constitution the ability to change? What are these changes called and what do they do?
What part of the Constitution spell out how to change the Constitution? Is change easy?
Why would you want to change the Constitution?
How is your generation going to fill in the whitespace after the Constitution?
Segment 3: Change does not always mean you need an Amendment…
Amendments are not the only way to change rights. What other ways can rights change?
How else has equality for women changed?
There have been lots of changes to women’s rights by other means. Explain the examples below.
How did the President change the law to support women’s rights?
How did Congress change the law to protect women’s rights?
Our system of government is set up to control power. The Founders controlled the power by dividing it. By doing this, they created a balance of powers. Diagram the three branches of government and list out each branch’s role, as well as how they check another branch.
Segment 5: Too Much Power
How can our country ensure that one branch does not gain too much power?
Congress set up an investigation on the president, but who ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the full transcripts of his secret taping system?
What do you think would have happened if Nixon did not follow those orders?
Watergate was a test of the balance of powers. This happened without bloodshed. Can you name another time in history where a conflict was resolved in the courts and not in the streets?
When are the streets a valid and positive method of dissent? (Hint: think about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
What are the steps of understanding the law, as described by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor? She spells out three basic steps.
To Be _______________
To Read ____________
To Follow ____________
What does “original intent” mean?
Justices don’t always agree with each other either. They have lots of information to read about how past courts have interpreted the law, but there are two ways current justices interpret the Constitution. Describe the two styles.
The bottom line is that we all follow the rule of law and the decisions of the courts have the same power as law. So what can you do if you feel the courts have made an unfair ruling?
Segment 7: Balance does not always hold—Wartime
In times of war, the executive branch has sometimes been accused of going too far and upsetting the balance between civil liberties and national security. Do you think that this is okay in wartime?