Module Introduction

Constitutional Framework

Module Introduction

Topic Covered

  • The Founding of the United States
  • The Design of the U.S. Constitution
  • The constitutional principles that structure American politics

Democracy can be captured in three distinct categories; that is, the difficulty in which it is achieved, the unending battle to sustain it, and the perplexity in understanding it. The 1788 constitutional framework captures this observation. (1)

Achieving Democracy

Early American history dictates the grueling challenges of democratic development. British colonists in America, in response to the imposition of taxes, countered with the American Revolutionary War. However, the resulting independence that followed would soon prove difficult for the new nation. The fear of tyranny, like that experienced under the British Crown, led the newly formed United States to form a most ineffective government under the nation’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation. The deficits of the Articles were such that they threatened to completely dismantle the order the former colonists had fought long and hard for. (1) Thus, the need for the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which had as its motivating purpose the goal of preserving what has been deemed “ a grand experiment in self-government. ” (82)

Sustaining Democracy

One story out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 entails Benjamin Franklin’s response to a very poignant question posed; that is, “ What type of government have you given us?” (In response, Mr. Franklin is alleged to have replied “ A republic if you can keep it. ” (81) His response clearly indicates that democracy is an ongoing process that must continually be nourished in effort to thrive. America’s political landscape demonstrates this determination toward political longevity. For instance, the U.S. Constitution has, over time, progressed into greater liberty for its citizens; though this progression was not without its woes. Indeed, from the Civil War to the championing of Gay Rights, and everything in between, we find a system that is typified by political — and sometimes physical — melees for the cause of freedom. Were it so that democracy was easy to maintain, our Constitution would have largely gone unchanged and nixed important, historical developments like that of the Bill of Rights and the Civil War Amendments. (1)

Understanding Democracy

American politics are complex to say the least. (1) From the Electoral College and the popular vote debate to the nation’s vast election system — encompassing some 89,004 local governments, a national government, and 50 state governments — politics in American can be elusive. (83) This fact, alone, causes many to turn away from the subject altogether. Adding to this intricacy is the contemporary state of American federal government, which includes occurrences that the Founding Fathers could not possibly have anticipated. This gap in knowledge and time means that a Constitution written more than two centuries ago must now be interpreted and applied to a society that looks remarkably different than it did during the nation’s founding. Political issues such as recreational marijuana use, transgender rights, social media/virtual speech, etc., support this line of thought. As such, public policy in these areas — and others — often promote conflict, cynicism, and polarization as citizens struggle to find constitutional meaning in unpopular legislation. (1)

Moreover, the age of the Internet further complicates American polity. In an era where facts are often overshadowed by opinions, the democratic values housed in the Constitution are often eclipsed. Thus, the goal of this module is to assist you in identifying the Constitution as America’s political blueprint, with particular emphasis on the structure it outlines and the function it authorizes. (1)

Reference

Franklin, Benjamin. (1787). At the Close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 on December 18, 2017

de Tocqueville, Alexis. (1835). Democracy in America on December 18, 2017

United States Census Bureau. (2012, August 30). Census Bureau Reports There Are 89,004 Local Governments in the United States. on December 18, 2017

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to articulate an understanding of the individual in society.
  2. Students will be able to think critically about institutions, cultures, and behaviors in their local and/or national environment.
  3. Students will be able to think critically about institutions, cultures, and behaviors of the peoples of the world.
  4. Students will develop a historical context for understanding current issues and events
  5. Students will develop a greater understanding of world events

Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Analyze the developments that led to the American Revolution.
  • Describe the system of governance established by our first Constitution.
  • Analyze the developments that led to the Constitutional Convention.
  • Evaluate the framework for government that the Constitutional Convention created. (1)

Readings & Resources:

Supplemental Material/Resources

(Note: This material, in the media form of online videos, is considered supplemental and thus is not used for assessment purposes.)

Assignments & Learning Activities

  • Review Module 2 Learning Unit
  • Review Readings & Resources
  • Participate in Module 2 Discussion
  • Join a team for Assignment: Assembling Your Team
  • Take Quiz 2