More than 220 years after the ratification of the Constitution, the Six Big Ideas still inspire debate.
Last Updated: Oct 17, 2013
Dissecting the Constitution
More than 220 years after the ratification of the Constitution, the Six Big Ideas still inspire debate.
The Debate Format:
Each student will be assigned to team A or B.
The team will research the corresponding positions below.
For each issue, teams will use the Constitution Debate Outline to plan the arguments to be made during the debate. Fill in the side for the opposite position to anticipate and respond to the arguments that could be made by the opposing team.
Each team will choose a speaker to deliver the opening statement, three different people to deliver the supporting arguments, and the closing statement for each of the issues below.
The Debate Questions:
The idea: Limited Government
Question: To what extent should the federal government be involved in economic issues?
Position A: The federal government's powers over taxation as well as international and interstate trade allow significant latitude in directing economic policy.
Position B: The federal government should only act to remedy unfavorable economic conditions for business activity.
The idea: Republicanism
Question: What should be the role of citizens in creating public policy?
Position A: Public policy should reflect the opinion of voters.
Position B: Public policy should be created by officials who are most informed about the issues involved.
The idea: Checks and Balances
Question: When the President makes a nomination, what should be the nature of the Senate's "advice and consent?"
Position A: The Senate should defer to the President's choice of who he wants working under him.
Position B: It is the Senate's duty to make an independent judgment of a nominee's suitability for a position serving the American people, even if that means denying the President his choice.
The idea: Federalism
Question: How should power be divided between the federal government and the states?
Position A: The Federal government should retain the most power because it is best positioned to insure fair treatment, safety and equal protection for all Americans.
Position B: The states should retain the most power because they are closer to the people, better informed on local issues and best positioned to exercise authority for their residents.
The idea: Separation of Powers
Question: Once Congress declares war and the President assumes the role of Commander-in-Chief who decides how the war ends?
Position A: Congress, the policy making branch which represents the people, should determine peace terms.
Position B: The President as Commander-in-Chief is in the best position to determine appropriate actions.
The idea: Popular Sovereignty
Question: Should voter ballot initiatives be allowed to overturn laws passed by legislative bodies?
Position A: Yes; ballot initiatives allow voters to directly participate in their government.
Position B: No; voters already express their views through election of public officials.
A collection of databases dealing with all aspects of social studies including US and world history, government, and geography. Also includes how others lived their daily lives throughout history.
Learn about different cultures from around the world including customs, languages, diet, and much more.
- Discovering Collection
Searches reference books for geography & cultures, science, history, literature, current biographies, authors, & the like. Also has a multimedia section with audio, video, & still images, as well as a searchable timeline feature.
- EbscoHost (Student Resource Center)
Contains ALL of EbscoHost's full text articles from popular magazines, research periodicals, national newspapers, thousands of biographies, millions of images, and over 100,000 primary source documents.
Click on Student Resource Center for easiest navigation.
- Encyclopedia Britannica (School Edition)
The original encyclopedia! Provides current information on just about everything you can imagine: people, places, events...things. Also contains a thesaurus, dictionary, and atlases.
- Global Issues in Context
International viewpoints on a broad spectrum of global issues, topics, and current events. Featured are hundreds of continuously updated issue and country portals that bring together a variety of specially selected, highly relevant sources for analysis of social, political, military, economic, environmental, health, and cultural issues.
- Grolier Online
Grolier Online is an integrated reference portal. With over 55 million words, 50,000 websites, and several hundred thousand magazine articles, finding authoritative, age- appropriate and subject-specific information is easy. Users have access to award-winning databases, special features, multimedia presentations, an interactive atlas, dictionaries, and much more. Grolier Online provides resources tailored specifically for teachers and students, all contained within a structured and monitored environment.
- World Geography and Culture
This database facilitates the study of countries, U.S. states, places, peoples, and geography concepts and skills through a global approach.
To what extent should the federal government be involved in economic issues?
- The Federal power to regulate Commerce
The United States is a government of enumerated powers. Congress, and the other two branches of the federal government, can only exercise those powers given in the Constitution. The powers of Congress are enumerated in several places in the Constitution. The most important listing of congressional powers appears in Article I, Section 8. No enumerated power has justified more exercises of congressional power than the Article I, Section 8 power to "regulate commerce among the several states."
- Role of the Federal government in regulating the economy
This is a blog post from the Center for American Progress on the positive role the Federal government has in creating a competitive economy.
- Role of the Federal government in the economy
Pearson's Infoplease page provides a quick overview of the role played by the Federal government in the economy of the United States.
What should be the role of citizens in creating public policy?
When the President makes a nomination, what should be the nature of the Senate's "advice and consent?"
- Senate's Advise and Consent of judicial nominations
The Constitution (Article II, Section 2) states that the President shall seek the "advice" and obtain the "consent" of the Senate before his nominations to the federal bench (and other "officers of the United States," including Cabinet officers) assume their posts. (There is an exception for temporary appointments when the Senate is in recess.) While it is assumed that the President will try to nominate judges who hold a judicial philosophy that he shares, there is much argument over whether the Senate is equally free to take philosophy and ideology into account in its decision whether to confirm the nominees.
- Heritage Foundation's Analysis of Advise and Consent
This essay by constitutional scholar John McGinnis of Northwestern University School of Law considers in close detail what the Constitution actually says and means on this matter. Looking closely at the text as well as the debate in the Constitutional Convention, McGinnis establishes that "the President has plenary power to nominate" and that the record "repudiates any special constitutional prenomination role for the Senate." At the same time, the essay also concludes that the Senate "has complete and final discretion in whether to accept or approve a nomination."
- Article on Advise and Consent
From the Law School at Marquette University comes a 26 page article on the Senate's advise and consent powers. Look at the article starting on page 9.
How should power be divided between the federal government and the states?
- States vs. Federal
The question of how power should be divided between the federal government and the states is really what American politics has been all about for well over two centuries. It is a question debated by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, debated by Federalists and Anti-Federalists during the ratification period, and debated between and within our political parties ever since. Elections have been won and lost on this question, and a Civil War fought over it.
- The Commerce clause limitation on States
The Commerce Clause is a grant of power to Congress, not an express limitation on the power of the states to regulate the economy.
- National vs. State Powers
This page is from the US Government Printing Office and provides a good overview of the differences in powers between the Federal government and the various State governments.
Once Congress declares war and the President assumes the role of Commander-in-Chief who decides how the war ends?
- War and Treaty Powers
The Constitution divides war powers between the Congress and the President. This division was intended by the framers to ensure that wars would not be entered into easily: it takes two keys, not one, to start the engine of war.
- US Senate's Page on Declaring War
This is a short page with background information on how the Senate declares war, as well copies of all of the war declarations passed by the Senate.
- War Powers
Cornell University Law School has a great outline of the War Powers and how they interact between the President and the Senate.
Should voter ballot initiatives be allowed to overturn laws passed by legislative bodies?
Here is just a sample of books on Africa in the library. For individual countries, browse the 960-969 section of non-fiction. Don't know where that is? Ask Mr. Vallée!
Call Number: 960 AYO
Publication Date: 1995
Describes the traditional lifestyles, beliefs, skills, and crafts of the African peoples.
Call Number: 960 GRE
Publication Date: 2003
Examines the costumes of Africa at different eras throughout history, looking at what clothing and body adornment reveals about the culture and society of five specific regions, and includes color illustrations, a glossary, a time line, and resource lists.
Call Number: 960 SAY
Publication Date: 1999
Describes the countries, landscapes, geology, weather, climate, air, soil, plants, and animals of the continent of Africa.
Have a great link to share with your classmates? Submit it below and it could appear on this guide. Hooray for collaboration!