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 C. Protecting Rights and Maintaining Order

Indicator 1. Examine the impact of governmental decisions on individual rights and responsibilities in the United States

Objective b. Explain how rules and laws protect individual rights and protect the common good

Conduct a whole group discussion with students about the meaning of the terms rule and law, emphasizing students’ ideas about both the similarities and differences between the two.

Provide students with packets of primary evidence of a variety of rules and laws in today’s society. Such evidence might consist of photographs of traffic signs, the text of actual state and/or federal laws and regulations, photos of “No Smoking” or other similar signs, or appropriate news accounts. Have pairs of students analyze the sources together and then explain in writing the purpose behind the rule/law depicted in the source, and describe what might happen if this rule or law was not in place. Finally, direct the students to reflect on whether the law’s purpose was to protect individual rights, promote the common good, or both. In journals, have the students explain how society’s restrictions on individual actions can actually protect individual rights, and to provide examples of this to support their explanation.

Next, select a prominent law or rule from early U.S. history and direct the students to “predict” the positions the policy’s proponents and opponents would have taken regarding the law’s consistency with the principles of individual rights and the common good. (For example, have the students address questions such as “Why do you think proponents of fugitive slave laws believed these policies promoted individual rights and/or the common good?”; and “Why did the laws’ opponents claim they violated these ideals?” Finally, direct the students to verify or revise their “predictions” by analyzing quotes from actual stakeholders.

Examples of early U.S. history rules and/or laws students could evaluate for this activity include:

  • the Alien and Sedition Acts
  • various proposals for internal improvements such as the American System
  • the Tariff of 1832 and South Carolina’s Nullification Act
  • the Indian Removal Act
  • the Missouri Compromise
  • the Kansas-Nebraska Act
  • the Dred Scott decision
  • the Compromise of 1850 (or fugitive slave laws taken individually)
  • the 14th Amendment
Resources for Objective 1.C.1.b:
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