Lesson Plan: Researching American Democracy

Date: _________________________________________

Objectives: The students will

I. identify resources where they can find information regarding the state of American Democracy.

II. compare the Watergate scandal with that of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair

III. review the major elements of the Constitution of the United States

Warm Up Activity (Anticipatory Set): Vocabulary: Chapter 4: The Bill of Rights

A) List the some or all of the following vocabulary terms on the overhead projector.
B) These terms come from Chapter 4 of American Civics
Vocabulary Terms:  The Bill of Rights and Amendments to the Constitution
Section 1 Sections 2 and 3
  1. Bill of Rights 
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Separation of church and state
  4. Freedom of speech
  5. Slander 
  6. Freedom of the Press 
  7. Libel 
  8. Freedom of assembly
  9. Freedom of petition
  10. The Right to bear arms 
  11. Search Warrant
  12. Indicted
  13. Self-incrimination
  14. Double jeopardy
  15. Due process of law 
  16. Right to own private property
  17. Eminent Domain
  18. Eighth Amendment/Bail
  19. The rights protected by the Ninth Amendment
  20. Tenth Amendment
Section Two

1) Civil Rights 
2) Thirteenth Amendment
3) Fourteenth Amendment
4) Suffrage
5) Fifteenth Amendment 
6) Seventeenth Amendment
7) Nineteenth Amendment
8) Twenty-third Amendment 
9) Twenty-fourth Amendment
10) Twenty-sixth Amendment 

Section Three

11) List five (5) duties of citizenship 
12) Draft 
13) Register 
14) List (5) responsibilities of citizenship 
15) Outline the steps in amending the Constitution. 



B) Have students use their texts to define these terms in writing and in oral discussion. One might assign cooperative groups two or three terms and have those groups report their definitions to the class as others take notes. Have student groups place their definitions on overhead transparencies and allow the students to teach the class.

C) A Vocabulary Matching exercise is available for Section One's terms.
Vocabulary Terms: Chapter Five, Government in America
Section 1 Supreme Court Cases
  1. Civil Liberties (142)
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty (142, 143)
  4. Establishment Clause (143)
  5. Free Exercise Clause (143)
  6. Conscientious Objector (147)
Section 2
  1. Freedom of  Speech (150)
  2. Pure Speech
  3. Speech Plus
  4. Sedition (150)
  5. Clear and Present Danger (150)
  6. Smith Act (152)
  7. Defamation
  8. Slander (153)
  9. Libel (153) 
Investigate the following cases. Describe the facts of the case and the Supreme Court's decision in the case.

1) Engel v. Vitale (pg. 146)
2) Yoder v Wisconsin (pg 147)
3) US v O'Brien (pg. 151)
4) Tinker v Des Moines School District.
5) Schenk v US
6) Dennis v US
7) Yates v US
8) Brandenburg v Ohio
9) NY Times vs Sullivan
10) Chaplinsky vs New Hampshire

Main Activity (Instructional Input): Nixon vs. Clinton

A) Have students investigate How did the Watergate Scandal Challenge the Constitution?

and Teaching with Documents: Constitutional Issues -- Watergate and the Constitution

History Research Guide: The Lewinsky Scandal

CNN: Investigating the President (An older archive. Some picture and links may not work).

B) After reading the source material, have students list similarities and differences between Watergate and what they know of the Lewinsky affair.

C) Use internet and print articles to illustrate these points. Have students create this chart in their notebooks. Answers are suggested below and can be used to guide discussion or for presentation.

The Watergate Affair The Lewinsky Scandal
What crime is that the heart of the scandal?  





How is the President involved?





How is the Congress involved?








How is the Supreme Court involved?







What are the charges against the President?  









The Watergate Affair The Lewinsky Scandal
What crime is that the heart of the scandal? Nixon tried to cover up the fact that he ordered the 1972 Watergate break-in. The actual crime is called "obstruction of justice."


Clinton was accused of lying under oath during a lawsuit, which is perjury. He may also have been guilty of obstruction of justice.
How is the President involved?
The president ordered the break-in and then used the powers of his office to cover up the conspiracy. The President claimed "executive privilege" in that he refused to release information on the cover-up to Congress.

The President was involved in a civil lawsuit involving sexual harassment. During the deposition, he gave false and misleading responses to the questions put to him by the special prosecutor.
How is the Congress involved?
The House of Representatives had begun impeachment hearings to determine if a vote by the full house was in order. Once the hearings had begun, Nixon resigned his office, the first president ever to do so.
The House of Representatives did bring articles of impeachment against President Clinton after the House Judiciary Committee found that there was enough evidence  to impeach the president. The Senate 
found the President not guilty, lacking the needed two thirds vote to convict and remove from office.
How is the Supreme Court involved?
The Supreme Court ruled against the President in US v Nixon ruled "Neither the doctrine of separation of powers,              nor the need for confidentiality can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process." 


The Supreme Court played very little role in the Lewinsky scandal other than the constitutional role played by the Chief Justice in the impeachment trial.


What are the charges against the President? Obstruction of Justice




 C) Outline the steps involved in the impeachment process. Have students identify how the impeachment process acts as part of the system of checks and balances.

Examples (Modeling): Diagram: The Structure of American Government

A) Display the diagram of the three branches of government.

B) Have students use their textbook or the Internet to complete the chart. Review students' responses orally.

Display the information on the chart using this PowerPoint presentation: The Structure of American Government (Right click to download or left click to open in your browser)

Check For Understanding: High Crimes and Misdemeanors

A) Have students locate Article I, Sections 2 and 3, which discuss the procedure, and in Article II, Section 4, which indicates the grounds for impeachment in the Constitution.

B) Have students identify which branch is being checked and which branch holds the power.

C) Ask students if each of the following cases meets the requirement for impeachment (have students conduct research on the topic or provide them with the information directly. On-line resources have been supplied where available :

1. Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Policy (Source: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2959.html)
2. John Tyler vetoed a Tariff Bill. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9800E2DD173DF937A25751C1A96E958260)
3. Andrew Johnson removed Edwin Stanton in violation of the Tenure of Office Act. (http://www.impeach-andrewjohnson.com/)
4. Harry Truman uses atomic weapons against the Japanese in World War II (The Trial of Harry Truman: http://hnn.us/articles/172.html)
5. George W. Bush launches the Iraq war on faulty pretenses. (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060130/holtzman)

Homework (Independent Practice): Three Branches In The News

Using newspapers, news broadcasts, or the Internet,  have students find one or more news stories that illustrates the powers of the three branches and the way they check on each others' powers described in the activity above. Also, have students create a large diagram of the impeachment process. As the Congress acts on the Lewinsky scandal, keep track of the process by posting headlines on the diagram to show where the Congress is in the process.

Wrap-Up Activity (Closure): Illustrating the Freedoms of the Bill of Rights

A) Have students draw a picture, use magazine articles and photos, or write a poem to illustrate which freedom in the bill of rights they feel is most important to them. Have them right a paragraph about the meaning of the right they chose and have them include an explanation of why they chose those that right.

B) Allow students time to present their poems, illustrations, or artwork to the class.

Evaluation: The lesson will be evaluated by:

I. the accuracy of student's written responses;

II. student's scores on future tests and quizzes.

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