School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic A. The Foundations and Function of Government

Indicator 1. Investigate the evolution of the U.S. political system as expressed in the United States Constitution

Objective g. Summarize an individual's legal obligations to obey the law, pay taxes, serve on a jury and serve as a witness

To help students understand the importance of obeying the law, paying taxes, and serving as a juror and witness, have them consider what would happen if individuals did not fulfill these legal obligations. Divide students into groups of four students, and ask each group to select one of the legal obligations listed (or you may assign a legal obligation to each group). Have students think about a situation that might arise if individuals did not fulfill their assigned legal obligation. Then have the groups develop brief skits that portray these situations and highlight the problems caused. For example, a group assigned to the obligation to pay taxes might create a skit in which a family is trying to give their young child an education but cannot afford private schools and are told that the public schools are all closed because there was no money to support them. A group assigned to the obligation to obey laws might create a skit in which traffic accidents occur because no one is following traffic laws. Have the groups present their skits to the class.

Have students work in pairs to study the following argument recently advanced by legal philosopher Ronald Sworkin, and then use the questions that follow to prepare an evaluation of Sworkin's argument.

There is no genuine democracy, even though officials have been elected in otherwise fair elections, unless voters have access to the information they need so that their votes can be knowledgeable choices rather than only manipulated responses to advertising campaigns. Citizens of a democracy must be able to participate in government not just spasmodically, in elections from time to time, but constantly through informed and free debate about their government's performance between elections.

  • What do you think voters need to know in order to make "knowledgeable choices"?
  • How serious is the problem of voters' choices being manipulated by advertising campaigns? What evidence gathered from the media or other sources can you offer as evidence?
  • How can voters stay informed and evaluate their government's performance between elections?
  • Do you agree with the with author's basic premises? Why or why not?

Have students present their arguments in a panel discussion format.
(Adapted from the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution text. Level III Lesson 34)

Resources for Objective 1.A.1.g:
Clarifications | LESSON SEEDS |