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Rights and Privileges: Understanding the balance of power (6-8)

100 minutes
Approximately 100 minutes: interactive activities supported by films and PowerPoint slides
Primary subjects: 
Civics and Government
Grade: 
6, 7, 8
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Students critically examine the conceptual framework of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to understand how internal threats institutionalized in these documents triggered a power dynamic that has shaped our society from inception to present. Students are introduced to a third entity that existed at the time of founding – corporations – and then explore the young government’s dilemma of where to fit this entity into the legal framework. Students critically examine “judicial review,” two other early landmark laws, and the Civil War Amendments and the effects of these on the balance of rights, powers, and privilege during the first 100 years of the democracy journey.

Key objectives for students
Describe power and why it governs how any form of government works.
Explain how the Constitution empowered those who wrote the rules and disempowered everyone else—the majority of people.
Describe the framework of government, the duties and powers of each branch, and how each branch makes law.
Explain constitutional rights as inherent to natural persons and charter rights as privileges of doing business for artificial persons.
Describe the Constitution as a framework of, for, and by sovereign human persons and how artificial persons were controlled through state charters.
Describe internal threats to democracy as laws based on weaknesses in human nature from “fear of other” (discriminatory laws) and “love of power” (laws that consolidate power and wealth).
Explain how judicial review empowered courts over the other two branches—and it empowered the wealthy few who could afford to go to court to advocate for rights.
Explain how exceptions for crime in the 13th and 14th Amendments stole the promise of the Civil War amendments to abolish slavery, make all persons citizens with due process and equal protection in law, and give African Americans the vote.
Describe key court decisions that led to “corporate personhood”—14th Amendment equal protection in law and other constitutional rights for artificial persons.
Explain how the Supreme Court’s case changed the balance of power between natural and artificial persons by giving artificial persons equal protection in law.
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