Real People to the Rescue: How to Amend the Constitution

50 minutes
Primary subjects: 
Civics and Government, History
Grade: 
9, 10, 11, 12
0
Average: 0 (0 votes)
About

Lesson 5 explores a game-changing action in real time: How to amend the U.S. Constitution to defend against current injuries and usurpations of human rights and to restore rule to the (human) people. Students review the constitutional amendment process, then consider ways to address an internal threat to democracy by amendment. Using films and interactive activities, students evaluate proposed amendments and consider social consequences with, and without, such an amendment. Students reflect on how the amendment process influences social progress, then discuss whether the Supreme Court should be made more democratic and ways this could be achieved.

Key objectives for students
Describe two ways to amend the Constitution.
Explain how citizens may engage government in this process.
Describe social consequences of living with–and without–a constitutional amendment to address the internal threat from artificial persons with inalienable rights.
Explain how the Supreme Court came to be key in shaping social progress.
Offer reasoned opinions on why the Supreme Court should or shouldn’t be made more democratic.
Secondary subjects
Economics, Environmental Education, Social Studies
Topics
Constitutional Democracy Framework, Natural and Artificial Persons, Natural Rights and Charter Rights, Internal Threats to Democracy, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Judicial Review, Economic Theories of Corporate Personhood, Oligarchy, Amending the Constitution and Social Consequences, Social Progress
Skills
Collaboration, Communication skills, Creative problem solving, Critical Thinking, Digital citizenship, Systems thinking
Values
Curiosity, Empathy, Global Leadership, Mindfulness
Methods
Real-World Application
Background information for teachers

The proceedings and debates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were kept secret until after the death of the last Founding Father, James Madison, in 1836. When first published in 1838, the writings reveal an extensive debate about how much democracy should be allowed.

The aristocrats who drafted the Constitution were well aware that a real democracy would lead to the poor people organizing to take away the property of the rich. Their solution was to reduce democracy by vesting a special class of people – the wealthy aristocrats – with the power to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority,” as James Madison stated.

Soon enough, Madison realized his error and began condemning the system that he had created. The wealthy minority proved not to be enlightened, benign leaders who dedicated themselves to the welfare of all. Instead, the Monied Power began to craft both policy and the economy to serve its own interests.

The result is the extreme inequality gap in the U.S. – the second-highest level of inequality among 34 mostly developed nations – with all the attendant social problems like violence, mental illness, drug addiction, obesity, loss of community, imprisonment, unequal opportunities, and poor health and wellbeing that affect everyone, not only the poor.

A key driver of the inequality gap is the ability of the Monied Power to build and consolidate wealth through a business model that the U.S. Supreme Court, long ago, empowered with human rights. By 2015, 69 of the top 100 economic entities were corporations, not countries, and these large corporate entities wield their human rights to overturn democratically enacted laws and tip elections to their advantage.

The 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United galvanized the American public to press for a constitutional amendment to overrule the court. Amendments have since been proposed to establish that only natural persons have inalienable rights – and the fundamental rights derived therefrom, and that money is not speech.

Such an amendment could overturn the body of judge-made laws that created the threat to democracy of artificial persons with human rights, including the “right” to spend and contribute unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. Such an amendment could put corporations back in their place, as business entities accountable to the people, not as tools used to consolidate power over the people.

In Lesson 5, students explore reasons and ways to amend the Constitution to address the internal threat from artificial entities with human rights. Students evaluate three proposed amendments and compare social consequences of each. Students consider whether the Supreme Court is – or should be – key to shaping social progress and discuss ways to make the Court more democratic.

These issues sit at the foundation of our democracy and present a monumental teachable moment for young Americans.
alt text

Previous skills needed

Core Vocabulary

  • Article V Convention: a convention of the states, called under Article V of the Constitution, to propose amendments to the Constitution
  • bill: draft of a proposed law presented to a legislative body for discussion
  • joint resolution: a type of bill that is used for special purposes
  • oligarchy: government by the wealthy; when the rich have authority
  • ratify/ratification: approve or adopt a bill into law; final approval or adoption of a bill into law
  • social progress: how cultures or societies change over time, in terms of social, political, and economic relationships
  • wealth inequality: a great difference in wealth, opportunity, and treatment
  • weasel words: statements that are misleading or unclear to evade a direct position or statement
In Advance
  • Review lesson materials, including PowerPoint notes and slides, films, activities, vocabulary, and resources.
  • Purchase pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution or provide student access to an online version
  • Post Resources online
    • Ask students to review pre-selected material marked with double asterisk **
    • Or select other material for students to review for class
  • Download and cue films for viewing
  • Hang up Timeline posters
  • Arrange desks into 6 working groups
  • Provide groups with:
  • Slide 5: Find page number in your classroom’s pocket Constitutions for:
    • Article V, p.
  • Slide 8: Actvity “What does this bill do?”
    • 6 copies of one bill per table; 2 tables will have the same bills
  • Post overrule labels on wall opposite Timeline, using 2-inch rolls of painters’ tape stuck on backside of labels
  • On white board to side of where slides project write:
    Vocabulary & concepts
    • Article V Convention
    • bill
    • joint resolution
    • oligarchy
    • ratify/ratification
    • social progress
    • weasel words

alt text

Materials needed

Shared Resources for Lessons 3–5
Timeline files from Lesson 3

Lesson 5

alt text

Time Exercise Description
50 minutes Who Rules? The Democracy Crisis
Implementation

1. Ultimate Civics! Cover Slide
Everyone has a story.

Suggested instruction for teacher

  • Add your 1-minute story to set this lesson on ways to fix the democracy crisis and how citizens might get involved.

In this lesson, we will explore why and how people are addressing the internal threat to a democracy from artificial entities with human rights. We will evaluate three proposed amendments and compare social consequences of each.

alt text

2. Essential questions
Our essential questions are:

  • What are two ways to amend the Constitution?
  • How can citizens engage in amending the Constitution?
  • Why is it important to evaluate anticipated social consequences of proposed policy changes?
  • What are the social consequences of a high threshold to amend the Constitution?
  • Should the Supreme Court be key to shaping social progress in a democracy?

3. Consequences of the democracy crisis
One of the consequences or effects of the democracy crisis is an extreme wealth inequality in the U.S. In 2013, the top 10% held 76% of the nation’s family wealth – homes, cars, land, savings, personal stuff, investments, and businesses. The bottom 50% held less than 1% of the family wealth – and this wealth inequality is getting worse.

But “wealth inequality” is about more than money – it is huge differences in real wealth, opportunity, and treatment. It’s about inequality in all the types of wealth: economic, social, environmental, and political. This is core vocabulary.

Inequality harms everyone in a society. People steal when they are hungry; people turn to drugs and violence when their basic needs are not met. Wealth inequality is not only bad for people and society, it’s also bad for democracy. In fact, when government is ruled by the wealthy, it is not even called a democracy.

It’s called an “oligarchy” when the rich have authority. A democracy is when every citizen has authority – as in government of, for, and by the People. Oligarchy is also core vocab. The consequences, then, of the current democracy crisis are wealth inequality and a very unstable society.

4. A game-changing solution
Let’s watch a 9-minute film that looks at some causes and social consequences of the democracy crisis and what people are doing to address one of its causes.

Show film.
After film, scaffold challenge question with a class discussion first.

Discussion guide

  • Ask: The film focuses on what one contributing cause to the democracy crisis? (corporate personhood)
  • Ask: How does this relate to different public issues, mentioned in the film?
    • safe products and good jobs: manufacturers have pushed through trade agreements that gut product safety laws and helped ship jobs overseas
    • health care: for-profit insurance companies have been the first ones consulted on health reform
    • responsible government: giant corporations have received bailouts and subsidies
    • clean air and water: oil industry has convinced politicians to block jobs protecting our climate
  • Ask: Symptoms of the central problem mentioned in film include:
    • We don’t have government of, for, and by the People; the People are no longer in charge.
    • Corporations and the wealthy minority – The Monied Power – have too much power over the people.
    • Corporations and the wealthy minority have too much influence in our election campaigns.
  • Ask: What are the two solutions proposed in the film?
    • Constitutional amendment to strip corporations of fundamental human rights
    • Public campaign financing to allow any person, regardless of their personal wealth, to run for public office, and to make campaigns fair for all candidates

At your tables, discuss challenge question.

  • Do you agree with the film’s portrayal of the causes of and proposed solutions to the democracy crisis? Why or why not?
    • After a few minutes, ask class for pros and cons.
    • Give reasoned arguments!

alt text

5. Amending the Constitution: How?
What are the processes to amend the U.S. Constitution?

Instructions

  • At your tables, review Article V of the Constitution.
  • Find the:
    • 2 steps
    • 2 ways
    • 2 threshold numbers

Discussion guide

  • What are the 2 steps to amend the U.S. Constitution?

    • Propose
    • Ratify
  • What are the 2 ways to amend the Constitution?

    • Congress proposes and the state legislatures ratify
    • state legislatures call a Convention to propose and state conventions ratify
  • What are the 2 numbers for the minimum number of votes for each step?

    • two-thirds to propose
    • How many states is that? 34
    • three-quarters to ratify
    • How many states is that? 38
  • In the past, who usually has initiated the process of demanding amendments to the Constitution?

    • Hint: Do you think publicly-elected officials just wake up one day and decide to amend the Constitution?
    • People! When enough people demand reform, then politicians act.
  • How have people initiated this process? What are the tools citizens use to engage their government – local, state, or federal?

    • Initiating or signing petitions
    • Initiating and passing ballot initiatives, ordinances, and resolutions
    • Testifying at local or state bodies
    • Educate others on the issue – family, friends, school, community
    • Write op eds to local paper or blogs on social media

Citizens have successfully amended the Constitution 27 times – the first time included 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights.

alt text

6. Calls to amend the Constitution
People are calling for constitutional reform through Congress and by state convention, but for very different reasons, as might be expected from our long history of power plays.

The People Power is working through Congress to overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

  • As of July 2017, over 500 communities in 38 states have passed or proposed constitutional amendments to establish:
    • that constitutional rights are only for natural persons, and/or
    • that money is NOT protected speech.

The Monied Power is organizing a Convention of the States to propose at least nine amendments – all to increase their power over the people. None are about overturning Citizens United, stripping corporations of human rights, or banning corporations from influencing elections.

There is nothing in Article V to limit the power of such a convention. An “Article V Convention” could create a new constitution, just like what happened during the 1787 Convention – also led by the Monied Power. This is core vocabulary.

So, let’s focus on what the People Power want to do – put corporations back in their place and people back in charge of our democracy.

7. Democracy first aid
It is a lot of work to amend the Constitution, so it is important to make sure the wording of the amendment does what we need it to do. If the goal is to overrule Citizens United, then it would have to address the two court decisions on which Citizens United is based.

  • Ask class: What are those two court decisions?
    • If students don’t remember, ask one to read the Citizens United decision out loud.
    • Answer: Corporations are “persons” entitled to equal protection under law (1886), which entitles them to 1st Amendment right of free speech.
    • Answer: Money is the equivalent of speech in elections campaigns (1976).

An ideal bill would address both rulings. It would establish that –

  • Only natural persons have natural or inalienable rights, and
  • Political money is not speech.

Also, an ideal bill would have no “weasel words” – statements that are misleading or unclear to evade a direct statement or position. “Weasel words” are core vocabulary, because these are commonly used in legislation and policy. Weasel words are used to do the opposite of what is written – or to do nothing, while giving the appearance of doing something.

8. What does this bill do?

We are going to compare 3 constitutional amendments introduced in Congress in 2017 to overturn Citizens United. Instructor hands out activity, “What does this bill do?” – one set of 6 copies of one bill for each table; 2 tables will each work on the same bill.

A proposed amendment is introduced as a “bill” – a draft of a proposed law presented to Congress for discussion. Amendments are introduced in Congress as special types of bills, called “joint resolutions.” These are core vocabulary.

We have 2 HJRs or House Joint Resolutions, for bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 1 SJR or Senate Joint Resolution, for a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate. The numbers show the order that the bills were introduced in each congressional session.

Let’s review your activity sheets, “What does this bill do?”

Instructions

  • Each group has a bill summary for a proposed amendment.

    • Identify what bill you have.
    • Which groups have HJR 48? HJR 31? SJR 20?
  • Work together at your tables to answer the questions.

    • The first 3 relate to natural rights. Read each question
    • Circle either “yes” or “no” for each statement.
    • The next 3 relate to money and speech. Read each question.
    • Circle either “yes” or “no” for each statement.
  • “What’s missing?”

    • Do you have any “no” answers to the first 6 questions? This is what’s missing.
    • Note what is missing on your sheet.
  • “What’s added?”

    • Is there anything extra that is not on the list? This is what’s added.
    • Note what is added on your sheet.
  • Identify and circle any weasel words.

  • We will work together to enter results in table (projected onto white board) and compare the 3 bills.

Instructor writes answers to questions for each bill on white board as student groups present their findings. Identify weasel words!
Class discussion questions relate to social consequences.

alt text

Answer guide

alt text

Discussion guide
SJR20

  • Where and when was this introduced?

    • U.S. Senate; February 3, 2017
  • What it does

    • SJR20 establishes that only natural persons are entitled to constitutional rights and that “corporate entities” are not persons and are subject to regulation by Congress and the states.
  • What’s missing?

    • SJR20 only refers to “corporate entities,” not all “artificial entities or persons.”
    • It does not clearly state that privileges granted to artificial persons are not inalienable.
    • It does not address money is speech or any campaign financing issues.
  • What’s added?

    • It confirms that Congress and states cannot limit inalienable constitutional rights of the people (meaning natural persons).

Class discussion questions

  • Should proposed amendments confirm that Congress and the states must not limit freedom of speech? Why or why not?

    • This isn’t necessary. It restates something that already exists. The powers of Congress and the states are already limited by the 1st Amendment.
  • Should proposed amendments refer to artificial entities or only to corporate persons? Why or why not?

    • Yes to “artificial entities or persons.” This is a broader term that includes corporate persons. It resolves the threat to democracy created by non-humans with human rights.
    • No to only “corporate persons.” These artificial entities would quickly change identities into another form of artificial entity. This would not resolve the problem of artificial entities with human rights.
    • In this usage, “corporate entities” are weasel words.
  • Does SJR20 help achieve the People’s goal? Why or why not?

    • No. It only partially covers one key threat to democracy – artificial entities with human rights. This and campaign financing need to be addressed to fix the democracy crisis.
    • No. It only deals with “corporate persons,” not all artificial entities. This is deceptive as it pretends to fix a problem, but it really doesn’t.
    • No. It’s harder to pass two amendments; it’s better to bundle the issues together and ensure both issues are fully addressed.

HJR31

  • Where and when was this introduced?

    • U.S. House of Representatives; January 24, 2017
  • What it does

    • HJR31 addresses only one issue – partially.
    • It confirms that Congress and the States have authority to set “reasonable” limits for campaign contributions and expenditures.
  • What’s missing?

    • However, it does not address money is speech, ban corporate giving or spending to influence elections, or require donor disclosure.
    • It does not end corporate constitutional rights or confirm that corporate privileges are granted by government and are not inalienable.
  • What’s added?

    • It grants Congress and the states the power to create different rules for natural persons and artificial persons, such as banning artificial entities from spending money to influence elections. But it does not actually propose to ban corporate spending (or giving) in election campaigns.
    • Confirms that Congress and states cannot infringe upon freedom of speech.

Class discussion questions

  • Should proposed amendments confirm that Congress and the states must not infringe upon freedom of speech? Why or why not?

    • This isn’t really necessary. It restates something that already exists.
    • The powers of Congress and the states are already limited by the 1st Amendment.
  • Should Congress and the states have the power to distinguish between rights of artificial and natural persons when creating law? Why or why not?

    • No. Artificial persons should not have human rights. Any privileges granted by governments should not be construed as constitutional rights.
    • Yes. Congress and the states should distinguish between constitutional rights of natural persons and privileges of artificial persons when creating law.
  • Does HJR31 help achieve the People’s goal? Why or why not?

    • No. It only partially covers one key issue – campaign financing, while ignoring the issue of corporate personhood. It’s better to bundle these issues together to fix the democracy crisis.
    • No. It uses a subjective word, “reasonable.” What is reasonable to a wealthy person is likely not reasonable to a poor person. In this usage, “reasonable” is a weasel word.
    • No. It institutionalizes use of private funds in election campaigns and makes it more difficult to achieve publicly-funded elections.

HJR48

  • Where and when was this introduced?

    • U.S. House of Representatives; January 30, 2017
  • What it does

    • HJR48 address both key issues – and more.
    • It confirms that constitutional rights are for natural persons and that corporations are only entitled to privileges granted by governments.
    • It establishes that money is not speech and that governments regulate all campaign financing – giving, spending, and donor disclosure.
  • What’s missing?

    • Nothing on list
  • What’s added?

    • HJR48 also addresses campaign-financing regulations for local governments and ballot initiatives.

Class discussion questions

  • Should local government have the power to regulate campaign financing and require donor disclosure for local elections? Why or why not?

    • Yes. Free and fair elections are a central pillar of democracy at all levels of government.
  • Should governments have the power to regulate campaign financing and donor disclosure for ballot initiatives? Why or why not?

    • Yes. Free and fair elections are a central pillar of democracy and this includes ballot initiatives.
    • Yes. Ballot measures are supposed to be a tool for the people to initiate and pass laws as a check and balance on the elected officials. Ballot measures that are bought and paid by wealthy individuals destroy the purpose of these measures.
  • Does HJR48 help achieve the People’s goal? Why or why not?

    • Yes. It covers both key issues and the additions provide the same protections for free and fair elections to local campaigns and ballot measures.

10. What could an amendment do?
Scenario: 38 states ratified HJR48! What court decisions are overruled by the People’s amendment?

Instructions

  • With a partner, take an overrule label and get ready to affix it to a court ruling that you think would be overruled.
    • Any court ruling based on the court’s theory of corporate personhood that grants corporations constitutional rights is fair game.
    • Any court ruling based on the court’s economic theory that “money is speech” is fair game.
  • Take another label if there are any still unused.
  • Check out the other choices.
  • Take your seats and be ready to explain your choices.

Class discussion
What could change in law?

  • 1819, revokes standing of artificial entities under Constitution
    • The Court created this new actor under the Constitution, and it is the basis of corporate personhood.
    • Strengthens state control of entities it creates.
  • 1886, revokes equal protection under 14th Amendment
    • Subsequent rulings based on this precedent would be overruled.
  • 1893, revokes standing in Bill of Rights and 5th Amendment due process natural right
  • 1897, revokes ability to use Bill of Rights protections against states and 5th Amendment judge-made right to just compensation
  • 1905, restores police power to states to protect public health and welfare, worker safety, and the environment
  • 1906, revokes judge-made 4th Amendment right to protection against unreasonable search and seizure
  • 1922, revokes judge-made 5th Amendment right to just compensation for following the law
  • 1947, revokes 1st Amendment right of free speech for corporate employers, granted through Congress
  • 1976, revokes judge-made principle of “political money is speech” and judge-made 1st Amendment right for individuals of unlimited spending on election campaigns
  • 1978, revokes judge-made corporate right of commercial speech as protected speech under 1st Amendment
  • 1986, revokes judge-made corporate right of negative speech as protected speech under 1st Amendment
  • 1996, revokes judge-made to negative speech in political and commercial speech as protected speech under 1st Amendment
    • restores truth in advertising and political campaigns
  • 2010, revokes judge-made right for corporations and unions (as artificial persons) of unlimited spending on election campaigns
  • 2010, revokes judge-made 1st Amendment right for individuals and artificial entities of unlimited giving to Super PACs; reinstates donor disclosure
  • 2014, revokes judge-made 1st Amendment right for wealthy persons of unlimited giving during election campaigns for candidates, political parties, and PACs
  • 2014, revokes judge-made 1st Amendment right for some artificial entities of freedom of religion
  • 2014, revokes judge-made 1st Amendment right for wealthy persons of unlimited giving during election campaigns for candidates, political parties, and PACs
  • 2014, revokes judge-made 1st Amendment right for some artificial entities of freedom of religion

What could change in society?
Instructor summarizes – or asks students to do so.

No more standing under Constitution and 14th Amendment equal protection for artificial persons means – no more constitutional rights for artificial entities. People’s sovereign power would be restored to hold government, courts, and corporations accountable to laws designed to protect inalienable and constitutional rights of real people.

Artificial persons would have only artificial rights – rights and privileges that may be granted or revoked by state governments. We could get Big Money out of our elections and remake free and fair elections. People could use our natural and constitutional rights again to protect what we love. Elected officials would again be responsive to and held accountable by the people.

11. Who shapes ‘progress’ in the U.S.?
This short film is about the history of amending the U.S. Constitution. It asks, “Why is it so hard to amendment the Constitution?” Listen.

Show film

Instructions
After viewing film, discuss class questions first to prepare for the Challenge questions.

Class questions & discussion guide

  • Why is it so hard to amend the Constitution? Then? Now?
    • Then: Monied Power wanted to stay in control, and so they made it difficult for People to change the Constitution.
    • Now: More states are needed to meet thresholds to propose and ratify. Consensus is difficult as country is more polarized than during Civil War.

The film suggests that, because the Constitution is so difficult to amend, social progress in U.S. history has often been defined by Supreme Court decisions – legal cases rather than constitutional amendments.

  • What evidence from film or Timeline exploration supports this thesis?
    • In the Powell Memo, the business community also recognized the Supreme Court was key to carrying out their social agenda.
    • Social consequences of Supreme Court ruling "separate but equal" effectively stalled recognition of 14th Amendment rights of African Americans for nearly 80 years – until the civil rights movements of the mid-1900s.
    • Social consequences of Supreme Court’s theory of corporate personhood led to extreme wealth inequality.
    • Social consequences of court’s economic theories of shareholder primacy and regulatory takings often infringe civil liberties.
    • Social consequences of court’s economic theory that political speech is money has led to loss of free and fair elections and legitimate democracy.

Challenge questions

  • At your tables, discuss these two questions.
    • Should the Supreme Court be “key” to shaping social progress?
    • How could the Supreme Court be made more democratic?
  • After about 10 minutes, ask groups to share ideas.

Discussion guide
Should the courts be “key” to shaping social progress?
No

  • 5 people should not decide for everyone.
  • Supreme Court lacks diversity of age, race, and gender.
  • Justices serve for life and are out of touch with needs of youth and changing times.
  • Court appointments have become polarized and partisan.

Yes

  • Judicial review is necessary and a good thing. We need an arbitrator of constitutional law.

How could the Supreme Court be made more democratic?

  • Find how other democratic countries made it easier to amend their constitution.
  • Supreme Court could be elected instead of appointed like the change made to the U.S. Senate.
  • Publicly-funded elections could be required for judges and justices.
  • Justices could serve for terms instead of life.
  • Qualifications could bechanged. For example, trial experience could be required to bring more practical grounding to theory. Racial and gender balance could be required.

12. Where to start?
If students are interested in learning more about this or taking action, here are some ideas for getting started. Think about what you want to do first. What is your first goal?

Then create an action plan. You might refine your goals and strategies as you learn more. But you need some ideas, organized and on paper, to get started. Action plans always have an education strategy to inform yourself on issues and learn who at your school or in your community is already taking action on this issue.

  • Check your government options like student government body, city council, state government, or congressional delegates.

Action plans always have an outreach strategy to network with and learn from the rich diversity of people who are working on issues or who may be interested once they learn more about how this issue directly impacts them or their work.

A school action strategy might be good place to start.

  • Giving a school-wide talk with other concerned students about the issue might interest your school in passing a resolution in support of the issue.
  • And that might lead to working with other schools on the issue.

Democracy work is intergenerational, yet many adults could use a refresher on basic civics. When you are ready, you could build a local action strategy:

  • Create or join a school club or group on this issue.
  • Give a community talk on the issue.
  • Petition the city council to call to amend the Constitution.

Next thing you know, you’ll have an action plan, probably a lot of new friends who share your passion – and a road map to your goal!

Instructions

  • Turn to a partner and take a minute to share what you might want to do, based on what you’ve learned.
  • After a couple minutes, ask volunteers to share their ideas.
  • Determine if students are ready for a class project or extracurricular activities to follow through on their interest area. By creating and implementing their own action plans, students will learn lifetime skills in civic engagement.

13. Ultimate Civics! Cover Slide
Instructions

  • Hand out exit tickets for activity, “Real People to the Rescue.”
  • Allow about 10 minutes for students to complete exercise.
  • If time allows, ask students to share “take-aways,” either with a partner or as a class.
  • Collect tickets as students exit.

Find exit ticket guide in the assess tab.

Reflection Questions

Essential Questions

  • What are two ways to amend the Constitution?
  • How can citizens engage in amending the Constitution?
  • Why is it important to evaluate anticipated social consequences of proposed policy changes?
  • What are the social consequences of a high threshold to amend the Constitution?
  • Should the Supreme Court be made more democratic?
Assessment Opportunities

Exit ticket guide

Real People to the Rescue
1. Describe two ways to amend the Constitution.
Proposed by: 2/3s of both Houses
Ratified by: 3/4s of State legislatures

Proposed by: Convention of 2/3s of State legislatures
Ratified by: Conventions in 3/4s of States

2. List at least 3 ways that citizens may engage in amending the Constitution.
Political: Signing or initiating petitions, ballot initiatives, passing ordinances or resolutions, testifying at local or state bodies
Social: Outreach and education on issue at school or in community, write op eds to local paper or blogs on social media

3. Why is it important to evaluate anticipated social consequences of proposed policy changes? Give an example of unintended consequences of a Civil War amendment.
Anticipate: It’s a lot of work to amend the Constitution and it is important to make sure the amendment will result in the intended social change. Wording of proposed amendments may do nothing or do exactly opposite of what is intended.

13th Amendment: Wording “except as punishment for a crime” led to increased arrests of African Americans and slavery of a different form, as prisoners of the state.

14th Amendment: Wording “nor deny to any person… equal protection of the laws” led to Court ruling granting artificial persons equal protection under laws.

4. What are the social consequences of a high threshold to amend the Constitution?
United States has defaulted to a very undemocratic process to shape social progress – court rulings rather than constitutional amendments. The Supreme Court has become key driver in shaping social progress through its interpretation of constitutional law. This means that the Monied Power has more influence in shaping society, because it has more money and, therefore, access to court.

5. Offer reasoned opinions why the Supreme Court should or shouldn’t be made more democratic.
No right or wrong answers here, but answers should be thoughtful.

6. What is your “take-away” from this lesson?

Consider asking volunteers to share their take-aways, once students complete exit tickets.

Standards assessment

Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, and national laws to address a variety of public issues. (D2.Civ.12.)
  • Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related social outcomes. (D2.Civ.13.)