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Grade 8 Massachusetts

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 2 months ago

 Mural by Elihu Vedder. Lobby to Main Reading Room, Library of Congress


Link here to free e-Book, Building Democracy for All: Interactive Explorations of Government and Civic Life



  60 Second Civics Podcasts about the Government



  Civics and Government Videos from PBS Learning Media



Take a Civics Practice Test from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services



Grade 8 Content Standards



Topic 1: The Philosophical Foundations of the United States Political System (8.T1)


  • Supporting Question:  What were the roots of the ideas that influenced the development of the United States political system?



1. Explain why the Founders of the United States considered the government of ancient Athens to be the beginning of democracy and explain how the democratic concepts developed in ancient Greece influenced modern democracy.



2. Describe the government of the Roman Republic and the aspects of republican principles that are evident in modern governments.







3. Explain the influence of Enlightenment thinkers on the American Revolution and the framework of American government.








4. Explain how British ideas and practices about government influenced American colonists and the political institutions that developed in colonial America.





5. Analyze the evidence for arguments that the principles of the system of government of the United States were influenced by the governments of Native Peoples.






 First American Homes 



Topic 2:  The Development of the United States Government (8.T2)


  • Supporting Question:  How did the framers of the Constitution attempt to address issues of power and freedom in the design of a new political system?


1. Apply knowledge of the history of the Revolutionary period to determine the experiences and events that led the colonists to declare independence and explain key ideas about equality, representative government, limited government, rule of law, natural rights, common good, and the purpose of government as contained in the Declaration of Independence.




2. Analyze the weaknesses of the national government under the Articles of Confederation and describe the crucial events (e.g. Shays' Rebellion) leading to the Constitutional Convention.





3. Identify the various leaders of the Constitutional Convention and analyze the major issues they debated and how the issues were resolved.




4. Compare and contrast key ideas debated between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists over ratification of the Constitution.



5. Summarize the Preamble and each article in the Constitution and the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights; explain the reasons for the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution in 1791.








Topic 3:  The Institutions of United States Government (8.T3)


  • Supporting Question:  How do the institutions of the U.S. political system work?


1. Distinguish the three branches of the government (separation of powers).





2. Examine the interrelationship of the three branches (the checks and balances system).





3. Describe the respective roles of each the branches of the government.




4. Explain the process of elections in the legislative and executive branches and the process of nomination/confirmation of individuals in the judicial and executive branches.






5. Describe the structure and role of political parties at the state and national levels.








Topic 4:  Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens (8.T4)


  • Supporting Question:  What is the role of the individual in maintaining a healthy democracy?


1. Explain the different ways one becomes a citizen of the United States.









2. Describe the roles and responsibilities of citizens as compared to non-citizens.






3. Distinguish among civic, political and private life.




4. Define and provide examples of fundamental principles and values of American political and civic life.





5. Describe how a democracy provides opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process through elections, political parties and interest groups.







6. Evaluate information related to elections.





7. Apply knowledge of the meaning of leadership and qualities of good leaders to evaluate political leaders at the community, state and national levels.









8. Explain the importance of individuals working cooperatively with their elected leaders.



9. Explain the importance of public service and identify career and other opportunities in public service locally as well as at the state and national levels.



10. Analyze issues involving liberty in conflict with equality or authority, individual rights in conflict with the common good, or majority rule in conflict with minority rights.











11. Examine the varied understandings of the role of elected representatives and discuss those who have demonstrated political courage or those whose actions have failed to live up to the ideals of the Constitution.







12. Examine the role of political protest in a democracy.











13. Examine the influence of public and private interest groups in a democracy, including policy organizations in shaping debate about public policy.






Topic 5:  The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions (8.T5)


Supporting Question:  How has the content and interpretation of the Constitution evolved over time?


1. Explain why the "necessary and proper" clause was included in the Constitution and why it is often referred to as the "elastic clause."



2. Explain the historical context and significance of changes to the Constitution, including key amendments.



3. Analyze the Constitutional issues that caused the Civil War and led to the eventual expansion of power of the federal government and the expansion of civil rights for individuals.






4. Explain the historical context and significance of laws enacted by Congress that have expanded civil rights and equal protection of individuals over time (race, gender, disability).




5. Explain the principle of judicial review established in Marbury v. Madison (1803) and explain how cases come before the Supreme Court, how cases are argued, and how the Court issues decisions and dissents.



6. Research, analyze and report orally or in writing on one area in which Supreme Court decisions have made significant changes over time in citizens' lives.


     a. Interpretations of freedoms of religion, assembly, press, and speech under the First Amendment



     b. Interpretations of the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment



     c. Interpretations in cases where individual rights versus the common good were in conflict








Topic 6:  The Structure of Massachusetts State and Local Government (8T.6)


  • Supporting Question:  What is the role of state and local government in the U.S. political system?


1. Compare and contrast the functions of state government and national government.



2. Describe provisions of the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution that define and distribute powers and authority of the federal or state government.



3. Distinguish between the enumerated and implied powers in the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution.




4. Compare core documents associated with the protection of individual rights, including the Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article I of the Massachusetts Constitution.





5. Explain why the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is important to state government and identify the powers granted to states by the Tenth Amendment and the limits to state government outlined in it.



6. Identify additional protections by the Massachusetts Constitution that are not provided by the U.S. Constitution.





7. Contrast the responsibilities of government at the federal, state and local levels.





8. Explain the leadership structure of the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the function of each branch.



9. Give examples of tax-supported facilities and services provided by the Massachusetts state government and by local governments.





10. Explain the major components of government in Massachusetts, including the roles and functions of mayors, city councils, and school committees in cities; town managers, select boards, representative and open town meetings and school committees in towns, and courts and sheriff's departments in counties.




Topic 7:  Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy (8.T7)


  • Supporting Question:  How does a free press support a democratic government?


1. Explain why freedom of the press was included as a right in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and in Article 16 of the Massachusetts Constitution and explain that freedom of the press means the right to express and publish views on politics and other topics without government sponsorship, oversight, control or censorship.



2. Give examples of how a free press can provide competing information and views about government and politics.



3. Explain the different functions of news articles, editorials, editorial cartoons, and "op-ed" commentaries.



4. Evaluate the benefits and challenges of digital news and social media in a democratic society.






5. Explain methods for evaluating information and opinion in print and online media.



6. Analyze the point of view and evaluate the claims of an editorial, editorial cartoon or op-ed commentary on a public policy issue at the local, state or national level.


      • Select a a public policy issue at the local, state or national level and write a news article and an editorial, editorial cartoon, or commentary on the issue.




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