the Video Unit 3
and Discussion (30 minutes)
Before viewing the video, discuss the following questions:
- Why does Congress, according to Chief Justice Marshall, have
the power to create a national bank?
- What would our national government look like today if it possessed
only the enumerated powers?
- What view of federalism is applied in the Dred Scott decision?
- Discuss the role the national government plays in secondary
education. How has the government come to play this role?
- What kinds of powers should be held by the states alone?
Take a list of commonly provided public services-Roads and Highways,
National Defense, Health Care, Public Housing, and Education. Which
level of government is best suited to take primary responsibility
for providing the service? Why?
Watch the Video
(30 minutes) and Discuss (30 minutes) [Top]
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1. Federal Wolves at the Door
The video includes three segments:
This story highlights the federal Endangered Species Act, passed by
Congress in 1973, which imposes federal mandates on states to protect
animal species that are deemed in danger of becoming extinct. In this
story, the state of Idaho is grappling with a federal mandate that
says wolves, an endangered species, must be reintroduced into the
state and managed by state authorities. In the end, despite protests
from many Idahoans, the Idaho government realized it must comply with
the national government's mandate.
2. Using Federal Dollars To "Buy" Interstate Highway
- On what grounds did the national government mandate that the
state of Idaho had to allow the reintroduction of wolves?
- By requiring that Idaho manage the wolves once they have been
reintroduced, the national government was enforcing an unfounded
mandate. Can you think of other unfounded mandates that are imposed
on your state?
- Why shouldn't the states be allowed to decide what is to be
done about endangered species?
The federal government sometimes uses grants-in-aid programs to expand
into policy areas that are traditionally (and constitutionally) controlled
by the states or local authorities. This story involves federal efforts
to impose a national drunk driving standard, as measured by a .08
blood alcohol level, at the urging of national groups including Mothers
Against Drunk Driving (MADD). In the 1980s, states were put under
pressure to adopt the national standard or risk losing millions in
federal highway funds. South Carolina, a state with a long tradition
of resistance to federal encroachments on its authority, has yet to
adopt the national standard for its citizens. The story closes in
2002, when the .08 bill died in the South Carolina State Legislature.
As a result of the committee's action, the state has kept its constitutional
authority to set its own standards, but it risked losing 64 million
dollars in federal highway funds if it failed to adopt the national
standard by 2007.
- It is clear that the national government cannot directly legislate
on the issue of drunk driving. How has the national government
managed to implement a national blood alcohol standard?
- What is the difference between the carrot and the stick approach
to national mandates?
- Are there other areas where the national government uses its
financial resources to force states to enact specific laws?
3. When Welfare Depends on Where You Live
This story explores one example of "devolution," a process
where the national government reduces its authority over some issues
and shifts power to the states. In 1996, President Clinton signed
a welfare reform bill that provided federal funds to the states in
the form of block grants, but allowed states to set their own welfare
policies. Supporters of the bill, officially entitled The Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, hailed
it as a way to allow states to determine for themselves how they should
assist their citizens, while critics charged that some states were
unwilling to or incapable of providing sufficient help to the people
who need it most. In the first five years after the law was enacted,
over one million people, mostly women, went off welfare, while welfare
rolls dropped by more than 50 percent nationwide. However, the aggregate
statistics don't reflect significant differences among states in how
they have run their welfare programs and in how successful they are.
For example, some states have reduced their welfare rolls by 90 percent,
while others saw much smaller reductions.
- What is devolution and why has it gained favor in recent years?
- Those who advocate stronger states often argue that the states
can serve as laboratories for policy experimentation. Is the story
of welfare reform a good example of that argument?
- To what extent is it appropriate that the benefits one receives
depends on state residence?
- Can you think of other examples where services or benefits depend
on where you live?
- What services, if any, should be uniform across the country?
and Discussion (30 minutes) [Top]
Try the Critical
Thinking activity for Unit 3. This is a good activity to
use with your students, too.
1. Determining What Is "Necessary and Proper" in Practice
According to Chief Justice John Marshall, Congress is not constricted
to simply the enumerated powers. Instead, it may justify legislative
action if it is "necessary and proper" to the carrying
out of any enumerated power. List some examples of congressional
use of the "necessary and proper" justification. Discuss
whether or not the laws are in fact "necessary and proper"
to carrying out the enumerated power to which they are linked. Try
crafting your own law (e.g., some version of educational reform).
Develop an argument to support your position that the proposed law
is necessary and proper to carry out a power enumerated to the national
2. Imagining a Unitary Government (15 minutes)
Assume that the framers of the Constitution had decided to establish
a unitary form of government instead of a federal system. What would
have been the advantages or disadvantages of such a change? Would
we have had a Civil War? What would have happened to individual
freedoms? Would public services be better or worse?
Read the following Readings from Unit 4 to prepare for next week's
- Introduction-Civil Liberties: Safeguarding the Individual
- Tocqueville, Democracy in America: "Effects of the Tyranny
of the Majority Upon the National Character of the Americans-The
Courtier Spirit in the United States"
- Locke, "An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent,
and End of Civil Government"
- Mill, "On Liberty"
- Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience"
- Read next week's Topic Overview.
You may want to have your students do the post-viewing activities:
Determining What Is "Necessary and Proper" in Practice
and Imagining a Unitary Government. They are provided for you as
blackline masters in the Appendix of the print guide.