Lesson Plan: Pros and Cons of the Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy - FEMA Corps Task Force in Moore, Oklahoma

A FEMA disaster response team walked through a neighborhood on Moore, Oklahoma, after the May 20, 2013, tornado. The response team went door to door talking to home owners and registering them for federal assistance. The residents could sign up immediately with a mobile app.


Bureaucracy and its effectiveness is a topic of contention in America. One of the points of debate is the amount of red tape that may impact efficiency within bureaucratic agencies. This lesson is intended to teach students about the potential issues associated with red tape, and to illustrate examples of red tape during government responses to natural disasters. The disaster profiled here is Hurricane Katrina (2005).



    • Investigate and profile a natural disaster which involved a large governmental response.

    • Watch C-SPAN video clips related to the response and any associated red tape.

    • Complete a graphic organizer.

    • Write a newspaper article.

    • Write an op-ed.
  • STEP 1.

    Assign a reading from your textbook’s section on bureaucracy, or another appropriate source, for the previous night’s homework.

    Watch a C-SPAN video clip (2:09) demonstrating an example of the federal government’s response to a May 2013 tornado in Oklahoma.

  • STEP 2.

    Separate the desks in your classroom in order to create 6 stations. Each station will be equipped with a computer preset to play one of the video clips related specifically to the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

    Lead a lecture/discussion about the “pathologies” of the bureaucracy.

  • STEP 3.

    Students will fill out the graphic organizer as they visit each station.

    After students have visited each station and completed the graphic organizer, they should return to their groups and begin writing a newspaper article. Each group will write and turn in one article that must address the following 2 questions:

    • How effective was the government’s response?

    • What role did red tape play in the process?
  • To conclude, each student must write and turn in an individual op-ed that answers the following question:

    “Which level of government bears the most responsibility for responding to a natural disaster: federal, state or local?”


    1. What is red tape?
    2. What role does federalism play in the governmental response to a natural disaster?
    3. How do the private sector/interest groups play a role in the response?
    4. What role does the president play in the governmental response to a natural disaster?
    5. In what way does Congress hold the bureaucracy accountable?
    6. What responsibilities do you think the federal government should have in responding to natural disasters?


  • Bureaucracy
  • Department Of Homeland Security
  • Fema (federal Emergency Management Agency)
  • Noaa (national Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration)
  • Red Tape


Bureaucracy & Regulation


Middle SchoolHigh School