Read & Write 5 Paragraphs about Civil Engagement Democracy

Lesson Objectives:

Students will be able to

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  • define democracy in their own words using support from the readings and materials
  • identify American democratic principles as defined in the US Constitution
  • determine their own beliefs about citizenship and public discourse


  1. Click on the interactive United States Constitution (Links to an external site.) and read through its contents.
  2.  View the ” Republic versus Democracy”“Republic versus Democracy”
  3.  (Links to an external site
  4. Read “Who and What is American?” by Lewis Lapham (7 pages). 
  5. Read “The Problem: Democracy at Risk” by William E White, Richard Van Scotter, H Michael Hartoonian, and James E Davis (4 pages).
  6. Discussion Forum: What is Democracy? 

Once you have viewed/read the materials for this week, please consider the following questions and add your responses to the Discussion Forum:

  1. After reading and viewing the materials for this week, in your own words, what is democracy? Why do you define it in this way?
  2. It is often said that America has been founded on democratic principles based on its Constitution. What would you say these principles are and why? Please make sure to cite specific information from what you read in the Constitution. What surprised you that you did not know about the Constitution before this reading and taking the Civic Literacy Exam?
  3. In “Republic versus Democracy” the narrator states that most Americans today have been persuaded that our form of government is a democracy and not a republic. He then goes on to provide an overview of different forms of government and how this relates to America today. How does this information compare and contrast to your own beliefs about democracy?
  4. The authors in “The Problem: Democracy at Risk” believe that people used to be taught how to be a good citizen—“not only school but other institutions of society and within communities taught civility, courage, integrity, concern and curiosity–in short, virtue or character appropriate for daily participation in democratic principles and republican responsibility” (p. 228). They make the case that our schools no longer teach these skills and that even college and getting an education is really about job training (see the last page, in particular). What do you believe and why? Give examples to support your position and cite specific references to the text.
  5. In “Who and What is American,” the author makes the point that we spend far too much time focused on the adjective that comes before the noun (White American, African American, etc.) rather than the “traits of character or temperament” that we hold in common as Americans. This can create situations, he believes, where “we can be rounded up in categories and sold the slogan of the week for the fear of the month” (p. 45). He also believes this causes us to not say what we think: “If we indulge ourselves with evasions and the pleasure of telling lies, we speak to our fears and our weaknesses instead of to our courage and our strength. We can speak plainly about our differences only if we know and value what we hold in common” (p. 49). Do you agree? Why or why not? What experiences have you had that have led you to this belief?
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