Lesson Plan: Federalism in the United States

States' Rights and the Tenth Amendment

Roger Pilon and Louis Michael Seidman talked about the Tenth Amendment and the concept of states' rights.

Description

Federalism is the system in the U.S. government in which power is distributed and shared between the federal government and state governments. It was created through many different aspects of the U.S. Constitution, including the 10th amendment. Over time, federalism and the relationship between the federal and state governments have evolved because how different clauses of the U.S. Constitution have been interpreted and the reality of issues in the country. In this lesson, students will learn about the system of federalism, its constitutional basis, and its significance on public policy issues throughout the country.

Procedures

  • INTRODUCTION

    Have each student create a chart with three headings: "Federal Power," "State Power," and "Shared Power." Have students list powers that they believe are held by the federal government, state governments, or are shared. Then, have them discuss and debate their list with a partner or small group. Finally, discuss and debate the different powers and who holds them as an entire class.

    ASSIGNMENT

    Break students into groups and have each group view the following video clips. Students should take notes using the handout provided or answer the individual Bell Ringer questions, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

    HANDOUT: Federalism Handout (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: States' Rights and the Tenth Amendment (3:52)

    Roger Pilon and Louis Michael Seidman talked about the Tenth Amendment and the concept of states' rights.

    Video Clip: Federalism vs States' Rights (0:57)

    Constitution Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra discusses Federalism vs States' Rights.

    Video Clip: Federalism and Powers of the Congress (4:25)

    Senator Mike Lee discussed the concept of federalism and the powers of Congress. He discussed the issue of state laws about the legalization of marijuana while explaining the enumerated powers, the necessary and proper clause and the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.

    Video Clip: The Role of State and Local Governments (6:03)

    National Association of Counties' Bryan Desloge and Peter McLaughlin talked about and the role of state and local governments across the country and the need for more federal-state-local partnerships.

    Video Clip: The Supremacy Clause (3:15)

    CLIP 1: Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) discussed the Supremacy Clause and the powers of the states. CLIP 2: KrisAnne Hall talked about her book Sovereign Duty, and how the Supremacy Clause enforces the Constitution.

  • CONCLUSION

    After watching the videos and reporting out to the class, have students watch the following videos and discuss the questions below.

    Video Clips: Federalism Issues (2 clips)

    VIDEO CLIP 1. Jonathan Rauch discusses the concept of federalism as well as several policy issues in conflict between state and federal governments. 

    VIDEO CLIP 2. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) debate Federal vs. States laws as they pertain to the legalization of marijuana.

    • Why does Jonathan Rauch say that the United States is “in a period of ferment on federalism?” What are the two questions that need to be asked on these issues?

    • Explain the policy issues and the conflict that each are creating in regards to federalism according to Jonathan Rauch.

    • What does Jonathan Rauch say is not in question regarding federalism? Describe what is in question for these issues.

    • How does the debate between Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) illustrate the system of federalism and the complexity it can cause on public policy issues.
  • ASSESSMENT

    After watching the concluding videos and discussing the questions, have students write an essay (or similar culminating activity) on a public policy issue that illustrates the complexity of federalism. Students can use the C-SPAN Video Library or other resources for research. Each essay should include:

    • Background of the public policy issue

    • The current controversy of the issue and how it illustrates the complexity of federalism

    • Whether they believe the issue should be controlled by the federal government, state government, or shared. Students should use constitutional justifications based on their chart and classroom discussions.
  • EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

    Argumentative Essay Free Response Question- Respond to this writing prompt (Google Doc) presented in the style of the Argumentative Question component of the redesigned AP Government and Politics exam.

    Concept Application Questions Free Response Question- Respond to this writing prompt (Google Doc) presented in the style of the Argumentative Question component of the redesigned AP Government and Politics exam.

Vocabulary

  • 10th Amendment
  • Commerce Clause
  • Concurrent Powers
  • Constitution
  • Exclusive Powers
  • Federalism
  • Necessary And Proper Clause
  • Separation Of Powers
  • Supremacy Clause
  • Supreme Court

Topics

Constitutional FoundationFederalism and State Issues

Grades

Middle SchoolHigh School