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Table of Contents
CIVICS AND GOVERNMENT: Focus on Economics
- Front Material
- Unit 1: Lesson 1 - How Has the Constitution Shaped the Economic System in the United States?
Students provide their own examples of the six characteristics of a market economy as they exist in the United States today. Then they see how the U.S. Constitution supports those characteristics by reading relevant portions of the Constitution, and matching these provisions with the six characteristics of a market economy. The lesson concludes by having the students read and discuss relevant portions of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. They then write essays contrasting the impact off the economic provisions of the two constitutions on the characteristics of each nation's economy.
- Unit 1: Lesson 2 - Is Economic Freedom a Necessary Condition for Political Freedom?
Students explore the relationship between economic freedom and political freedom. Do countries that provide for political freedom also provide for economic freedom? Is there a connection between decentralized economic decision making and decentralized political decision making? Students make inferences about this relationship in the beginning of the lesson; then they use selected excerpts to develop a further understanding of these relationships.
- Unit 1: Lesson 3 - What are the Costs and Benefits of Voting?
Students examine voter participation rates in the United States since 1952. Cost/benefit analysis is introduced to help explain voter participation rates. Students identify ways to reduce the costs of voting and increase the benefits of voting to increase the overall voter participation rate.
- Unit 2: Lesson 4 - What are the Economic Functions of Government?
The six economic functions of government are presented to students. Students categorize a series of newspaper headlines as examples of each of the six functions and locate additional examples in current newspapers and newsmagazines. The lesson concludes with a discussion of how limited the economic functions of government should be.
- Unit 2: Lesson 5 - How Has Federal Government Spending Changed?
They review the definitions of government purchases and transfer payments and categorize the listed expenditures. Finally, given Federal government budget data, they draw graphs of the relative importance of different types of spending in the budget to discern the pattern of change and its significance.
- Unit 3: Lesson 6 - How Can Changes in the Federal Government's Budget Stabilize the Economy?
The teacher discusses with the class how a market economy like that of the United States goes through the Business Cycle of unstable swings in economic activity. The students then write and perform a three-act skit which illustrates how the level of income and spending in an economy can fall, and how intentional fiscal policy changes in the spending and taxing levels of government result in a multiple impact on the economy. The class discusses how the federal government can try to stabilize the Business Cycle, using fiscal policies recommended by John Maynard Keynes in the 1930's, and accepted by Congress following World War II. The lesson closes with a discussion and summary of the multiplier effects of government fiscal policies illustrated in the skit and some of the problems of using fiscal policies to smooth the Business Cycle.
- Unit 3: Lesson 7 - Who Should Control the Money Supply - the U.S. Congress or the Federal Reserve?
Students learn that the basic U.S. money supply consists of currency in circulation and checking account balances in banks. They learn that the money supply increases when banks make loans, and that by controlling bank lending activity, the Federal Reserve System (an independent regulatory agency established by Congress in 1913) attempts to control the supply of money in the economy. The students participate in a classroom auction which demonstrates how prices can rise when the money supply is increased. the lesson concludes with a discussion of whether the Federal Reserve or Congress should control the money supply.
- Unit 3: Lesson 8 - To What Extent Do Economic Conditions Determine the Outcome of Presidential Elections?
Students consider how economic performance is evaluated and are introduced to four major indicators of macroeconomic performance: growth rate of real income, unemployment rate, inflation rate, misery index. They complete a worksheet comparing changes in these indicators with the outcomes of U.S. presidential elections from 1960 to 1992 and examine the influence of economic conditions of the likelihood of the incumbent party winning an election.
- Unit 3: Lesson 9 - How Are Economic Solutions to Pollution Different from Political Solutions?
After students have developed an understanding of externalities, they examine a case study of pollution in Los Angeles and determine a variety of solutions for this problem. The costs and benefits of these solutions are explored.
- Unit 3: Lesson 10 - Why Does the Federal Government Give Money to State and Local Governments?
The class discusses the meaning of spillover benefits (positive externalities) and develops a list of goods and services provided by state or local governments that could result in positive externalities. The concept of fiscal federalism is discussed by examining why and how the Federal government would encourage state and local governments to increase their production of the items on the list. The students then are presented with a situation that illustrates how a special-purpose grant from the Federal government to a state government induces the state to provide a good it would not have otherwise provided. The lesson concludes with the identification of other examples of fiscal federalism.
- Unit 3: Lesson 11 - What Can the Government Do About Unemployment?
An understanding of the three types of unemployment and the various policies government can pursue to alleviate unemployment is developed. Students categorize examples of unemployed workers as structural, cyclical, or frictional unemployment.
- Unit 3: Lesson 12 - Why Isn't Income Distributed More Equally?
On day one, students review a list of selected occupations and categorize them according to median income. They brainstorm a list of reasons for income differentials and then review a list of conventional economic explanations. They review data on the personal distribution of income in the U.S. since 1950 to see how this distribution has changed over time. On the second day, students discuss various programs and policies used by the Federal government to redistribute income, debating the pros and cons. Finally, they examine data on the movement of families within the distribution and consider ways in which an individual can improve his or her earning potential.
- Unit 3: Lesson 13 - Whose Interest is Being Served?
Students learn the difference between general interest and special interest issues. They play the role of U.S. Representatives and, given information about benefits and costs, vote on enactment of government programs. Then they discuss several government programs and attempt to identify beneficiaries.
- Unit 4: Lesson 14 - Do Economic Forces Lead Immigrants to the United States?
Students individually or in groups interview a recent adult immigrant to the United States, identifying his or her reasons for leaving the home nation and the reasons for coming to the U.S. The class views and discusses recent data on the major source nations of immigration to the United States, and some relevant economic data about each of these nations. Combining the interview with the economic data provided in class, the students construct and compare two lists - the benefits of migrating to the U.S. and the costs of doing so, each with an emphasis on economic reasons. The lesson concludes with the students developing a description and explanation of the type (and perhaps even some names) of nations that may be major sources of future immigration to the U.S.
- Unit 4: Lesson 15 - Why Would Governments Limit International Trade?
In preparation for the lesson, students identify imported products which they and their families buy. On the first day of the lesson, the class discusses the benefits of specialization and trade among nations, with an emphasis on who benefits and who may be harmed. They review data on U.S. international trade patterns. On the second day, they examine three types of barriers that can be erected by governments to restrict imports of foreign-made products and discuss a partial list of existing import barriers imposed by the U.S. government. After understanding the major arguments for and against government-imposed trade barriers, they debate an international trade barrier question arising from a hypothetical situation presented in the lesson.
- Unit 4: Lesson 16 - How Can Economic Sanctions Be Part of U.S. Foreign Policy?
Students examine the data on U.S. imports, exports, and foreign aid, and explore how economic sanctions can be used to attain overall U.S. foreign policy goals. In small groups they do research to determine how the United States has used economic sanctions from 1980 to the present and analyze the success of using economic policy as a part of foreign policy.
- Back Material