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U.S. GOVERNMENT: How It Works (6 Programs)
While the complexities of the American political system have never been greater, the right visual aid can help students sift through them - and even develop a passion for the subject. This six-part series is an ideal tool for introducing and exploring key aspects of U.S. government and public policy. Using a combination of eye-catching graphics, dynamic video footage, and interviews with legal and political scholars, each episode celebrates a particular dimension of American democracy while equipping students to candidly discuss political issues. Topics range from the Constitution and the three branches of government to the electoral process and the responsibilities of citizenship.
There are six 21 to 26-minute programs in the series:
THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Although the office of the President personifies American leadership, the Legislative branch was actually designed to hold at least as much power as the Executive, if not more. Many Founding Fathers envisioned Congress as the primary governing body, given its closeness, politically speaking, to the people. This program examines the origins, history, and activities of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Topics include the roots of today's legislative branch in the Continental Congress of the Revolutionary period; the reasons why a bicameral legislature was ultimately deemed necessary; the unique characteristics of both legislative chambers; the specific functions of Congress, from writing and passing bills to ratifying treaties to declaring war; and more.
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
Many equate it with the Presidency, but the Executive branch of our government is far more complex than that. Containing departments and agencies that directly affect the health, safety, security, and prosperity of the American public, the Executive branch is an administrative mountain with the White House at its peak. This program expands on that description, familiarizing students with the most visible arm of U.S. leadership and its evolution through the years. Topics include the President's roles as head of state, head of government, chief executive, and commander-in-chief; his or her responsibility to fill federal positions; relationships between the Executive branch and the other two branches, including the appointment of judges and the power to veto legislation; and more. Selected presidents, from Washington to Lincoln to Obama, are concisely profiled.
THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
September 24th, 1789 - the First United States Congress establishes the basic structure of the Federal Judiciary. With this act, the American legal system becomes an entity entwined with our fundamental notions of democracy and fair government, equal in power and authority to the Executive and Legislative branches. This program guides viewers through the history of the Judiciary and illustrates how it works in theory and practice. Topics include the main purposes of the Judicial branch - specifically, interpreting the law, determining if laws are unconstitutional, and applying the law to individual cases; the various divisions and levels of courts, such as lower, appellate, and specialized courts; the unique powers of the Supreme Court; summaries of famous Supreme Court cases; and more.
THE CONSTITUTION AND FOUNDATIONS OF GOVERNMENT
Why do written documents figure so prominently in the early history of the United States? There are plenty of explanations, but they all boil down to the philosophical ideas that drove the American colonies to declare their independence - and a profound awareness that those ideas should be inseparable from the rule of law. This program explores the origins, outbreak, and outcome of the American Revolution, the major political texts which grew out of that struggle, and their ongoing significance today. Topics include the heavy British taxation that helped spark the Revolution; the spirit and structure of the Declaration of Independence; the short-lived Articles of Confederation; the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; and their implications for U.S. government as we know it today.
ELECTIONS AND POLITICAL PARTIES
A government of the people, by the people, and for the people isn't possible without the laborious process of nominating and electing candidates, in a manner fair and free to all citizens. How did this process begin and how has it evolved over the course of American history? Does it even remotely resemble - for better or for worse - the manner in which the Founding Fathers gained high office? Using the 2000 election of George W. Bush and the uncertainties it exposed in the American electoral process as a departure point, this program examines how political parties were started, and why; methods and campaigns that were launched to elect different Presidents to office; and the history of voting and the Constitutional amendments that made voting possible for all Americans.
CITIZENSHIP AND CIVIC RESPONSIBILITIES
Is American citizenship all about personal freedom and the rights of the individual? Or should the concept of the "good citizen" take precedence, underscoring the duties and contributions an individual owes to society? Where does immigration fit in? This program helps students sift through various meanings of American citizenship and the historical forces that have shaped it. With energetic visuals, expert interviews, and examples from past political struggles, the video explores citizen rights as given in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; iterations of federal immigration law through the years; the history of Ellis Island as a conduit into citizenship; civic responsibilities and "active citizenship"; civil liberties and their importance; equal protection under the law; and more.
*Viewable/printable instructor's guides are available online