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High School — Social Studies
Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities


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    Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities


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      Activities: Advanced Work

      These activities can help your students reach the next level in their understanding of Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities.

      Influences Behind Policy Changes

      Have students consider what they know about the relationship in the U.S. between elected officials and their electorate. Students can identify how public opinion is shaped by both elected leaders who want to influence public opinion in their favor, and by citizens who want to make changes to this leadership.

      Guiding questions:

      • How are elected officials limited in their roles as policymakers?
      • What are the limitations that citizens face in affecting change in policy decisions?

      Have students consider specific policy changes that occurred in the following categories:

      • Extension of suffrage;
      • Labor legislation;
      • Civil rights legislation;
      • Military policy;
      • Environmental legislation;
      • Business regulation;
      • Educational policy.

      Students can research and identify a particular policy change. Have students determine how both elected leaders and citizen action influenced public opinion related to this proposed policy change. Ask them to focus on how citizen involvement produced a change in policy. You can discuss with students the role of political parties, interest groups, lobbyists and the media in this process.

      Instruct students to write up their findings in a report, or to present to the class.

      Balancing Individual Rights and the Common Good

      Have students consider the big questions in the balance between individual rights and the common good. Encourage students to use their study of individual rights to form opinions about the following questions:

      • When is it necessary to restrict the rights of individuals? When does public interest override individual rights?
      • Throughout history, whose rights have been most restricted? Why might this be the case?
      • Who determines what restrictions should be enacted? What systems are in place for checking those decisions?

      Students can be encouraged to create position papers in response to one or more of the above questions.

      To extend their study, encourage students to consider modern-day examples of restrictions to individual rights. Ask them to connect each of these examples to the thoughts they express in their position papers.

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