Democracy: Is It Really the Best Form of Government?

We will be conducting research on the following questions in cooperative groups. Once we have collected enough information, the groups will develop well-written three-paragraph (or more) essays that describe our views on these topics.

Each group gets one question. The information that follows the questions is there to help the groups conduct their research and develop their responses more easily.

Question 1: Is it possible for the US Government, or any part of the government, to become too powerful? Describe a situation from history or current events where the rights of Americans have been taken away by the government? What do you think should be done to protect the rights of Americans to be free from government interference?

Additional information: Think about the power of the presidency? has there ever been a time when the president had too many powers? Look up the role of Richard Nixon in Watergate or Ronald Reagan in the Iran-Contra affair? How did the US Government keep the power of these presidents in check?

Question 2: What are some of the things American democracy stands for? What are some of the ideals that our nation symbolizes? Has the United States been true to those ideals in history or in current events? Explain your answer.

Additional information: Look at the meanings of the Declaration of independence and the preamble to the Constitution. What are some of the ideals of American democracy found there? How does our system of government in Congress and the Presidency represent what we believe as a nation?

Question 3: Should the United States actively work to spread democracy to other nations? What methods should the united States use to show other nations the benefits of democracy? What nations should the US work to convert from authoritarianism to democracy?

Additional information: Find out why the US entered World War I and World War II. read about US involvement in Vietnam and the Gulf War and state whether it was right for America to become involved in those conflicts. Make a statement as to whether or not you think democracy is right for other nations in the world.

Question 4: Why are individual rights so important in our society? What are some of the individual rights protected by our constitution? Do you think law enforcement agents should have more power to control people accused of crimes? Explain your answer.

Additional information: Review the First, Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution. Choose two or three of the most important rights to discuss. Locate real-life examples to show how important those rights are. Locate one or more supreme court cases that supports the position you took.

Question 5: Was the election of Bill Clinton a positive or negative event for America? Evaluate the President's performance during his first and second terms and state whether or not you believe history will rank him as a good president.

Additional information: Most of the discussion about Clinton today is about the Monica Lewinsky scandal and whether or not Bill Clinton should be impeached. Rather than discussing Clinton's guilt or innocence in the scandal, identify some of his accomplishments or failures AS PRESIDENT. Be sure to look at issues such as the economy, education, the environment, foreign affairs, and the state of the nation under his administration. Describe how well Clinton has gotten along with the Republican Congress since 1994. Use statistics or specific examples from his presidency to show your point.

Question 7: Should such rights as free speech, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms be restricted by the US government in any way? List examples and state what you think the government should do in these cases.

Additional Information: Find Supreme Court cases that have limited these rights. Research the issues of gun control and abortion. Find out what problems are at work when considering those issues.

For Teachers:

American Democracy: A Cause of Conflict or Catalyst For Compromise?

The United States has played an important role in shaping the national destiny of a number of nations during the 20th century. The American victory over totalitarianism in World War II set the stage for the Cold War, where two bipolar ideologies battled for the "hearts and minds" of millions of people. American Democracy is held by the American people to be the best form of government ever devised, and the United States is often willing to go to battle to see its ideals extended to other peoples and cultures. The values of Americans, namely freedom, liberty, and the rule of law, along with capitalism, have driven our relations with other nations over the course of this century. In turn, democracy is at the heart of any civics curriculum, and it is a major theme of American history.

I wonder how we as educators should deal with the apparent ethnocentrism that comes along with such a foreign policy and its manifestation in our Social Studies curriculum. To what extent is the propagation of American democracy a cause of conflict in world affairs, or is its implementation in other nations a form of conflict resolution? What is the best way to communicate these concepts fairly and objectively to our students.

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