Regents Prep: U.S. History: Government: Introduction to U.S. Government
A good portion of the United States History and Government curriculum is based on the ideas and principles of American government. These ideas and principles are best exemplified by the United States Constitution.
A Constitution is a country’s plan of government. The discussion of the US Constitution focuses on the features that make our plan of government unique and enduring.
US Government review focuses on these eight main areas:
Foundation – Highlights the roots of the American system and the unique history of United States political though that gave rise to the Constitution.
Convention – Focuses on the dynamics of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, the differing point of view and eventual compromises that gave birth to the document itself.
3 Branches – Examines the three branches that compose the Federal Government, their unique powers and roles, as well as how power is separated in order to keep one branch of government from dominating the system.
Checks and Balances – Examples of the system of checks and balances in action. Examples of how each branch is endowed with the power to temper the power of the other two.
Federalism – Identifies the unique balance between federal and state power, as well as the types of powers identified in the Constitution.
Amendments – Discusses the process for amending the Constitution, as well as a discussion of the Bill of Rights, the other amendments and their historic roots.
Unwritten Constitution – Explains the features of the Constitution that are considered implied or “unwritten”. Provides examples of these features in action, as well as a reasoning behind their implementation.
Laws (Legislation) – A selection of significant legislation from American history, focused on the provisions of the laws and their historic roots.
The 13 Enduring Constitutional Issues
The thirteen enduring Constitutional issues are considered to be the core of what the Regent’s examination in United States History and Government will test on the topic of government. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with these 13 issues. As you progress through your government review be aware of how what you know about government relates to one or more of these enduring Constitutional issues.
National Power – The Constitution created a “limited government” with clearly delegated powers, however over time federal power has grown to include a greater amount of implied as well as “necessary and proper” powers.
Federalism – The Constitution attempts a balance of power between the federal government and those of the states. Over time the federal government has grown to meet the demands of a more complex society, how do we preserve the balance of federalism while meeting these demands?
The Judiciary – As interpreter of the Constitution and its changing meaning over time, the Judicial Branch has a unique power to shape the Constitution and its protections in order to adapt to the changing needs and challenges of society.
Civil Liberties – An on-going discussion in American history has been the delicate balance between the civil rights of the individual with the security, welfare and needs of American society as a whole.
Crime and Rights of the Accused – The Constitution (in the Bill of Rights) very specifically details the rights of the accused and the limits on the government in prosecuting accusations. At the same time we have struggled to balance the rights of the accused with the general welfare of the nation and the rights of the victim.
Equality as a Constitutional Value – The Constitution does not outline the specific ways in which equality is to be defined, be it social, economic or political. As the nation has progressed, reinterpretations of the Constitution have helped to better define the meanings of “equality”.
Rights of Women – The Constitution does not specifically address the rights and status of women, save for the 19th amendment, however in the recent past Constitutional protections assumed for men have been extended to fully include women as well.
Rights of Racial and Ethnic Minorities – The Constitution has in many ways failed to protect the rights of ethnic and racial minorities, however in recent history there has been a greater push to extend Constitutional protections to a greater number of groups.
Presidential Foreign and Wartime Powers – Presidential power has increased as the nation as grown and expanded, reaching their peak during times of war and national emergency.
Separation of Powers – The Constitution set up three branches of government, each with specific and unique powers, as well as system of checks and balances designed to limit those power s.
Representation – The Constitution provides for voting rights, which have been expanded over time to include a greater amount of the population. The growth of political parties also has aided in the growth of representation in government.
Property and Economic Rights – The government provides for the general welfare and protects the rights of the people to own property and exercise economic freedom.
Constitutional Change and Flexibility – The Constitution as a “living document” with the ability to amend and be reinterpreted to meet changing times.