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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 13

Length: 60 min.

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Social Studies

Video on Demand
Teacher's Guide
Web Resources


Constitution: That Delicate Balance

The ideal antidote for students who believe the Constitution is a dry, irrelevant, old document! This dynamic series will have students testing each other about their understanding, beliefs, and biases on constitutional issues. From presidential prerogative and congressional power to whether to disconnect the respirator of a dying relative,

The Constitution is an indelibly vivid presentation of the life and power of this enduring document. The heated, round-table debates in these programs include such well-known figures as Ellen Goodman, Archibald Cox Gloria Steinem, and Bill Moyers, among many others. Produced by Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society.

Episode Guide

1. Executive Privilege and Delegation of Powers — Can the President’s conversations with advisors remain secret when Congress demands to know what was said? Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski, former President Gerald Ford, and Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox bring first-hand experience to this topic.

2. War Powers and Covert Action — If the president , as commander in chief, decides to declare war, can Congress restrain him? Debating the issue are former President Gerald Ford, former CIA Deputy Director Bobby Inman, former Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, and others.

3. Nomination, Election, and Succession of the President — A tangled web of issues is involved in electing a president. Edmund Muskie, former presidential press secretary Jody Powell, party officials, and others discuss the role of political parties, the electoral college, and what to do if a president becomes disabled.

4. Criminal Justice and Defendants’ Right to Fair Trial — Should a lawyer defend a guilty person? This and other questions are debated by Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola, New York Mayor Ed Koch, CBS News anchor Dan Rather, and others.

5. Crime and Insanity — Is a psychiatric evaluation precise enough to be allowed as testimony in a court of law? U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Irving Kaufman, Hastings Center President Willard Gaylin, and others discuss the use of psychiatry in law.

6. Crime and Punishments — Cruel and unusual punishment, from overcrowding in prisons to the death penalty, is debated by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Alarcon, Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Norman Carlson, government leaders, civil libertarians, and journalists.

7. Campaign Spending — Do limits on campaign spending infringe on First Amendment rights? Political consultant David Garth, Washington Post columnist David Broder, Bill Moyers explore the issues.

8. National Security and Freedom of the Press — What right does the public have to know about national security issues? Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, former Attorney general Griffin Bell, and others debate this issue.

9. School Prayer, Gun Control, and the Right To Assemble — A series of events embroils a small town in First and Second Amendment controversies. Featured are Griffin Bell, former Secretary of Education Shirley Hufstedler, and civil liberties counsel Jeanne Baker.

10. Right To Live, Right To Die — Gloria Steinem, Joseph Califano, Rep. Henry Hyde, Phil Donahue, and others discuss the right to make individual decisions about dying, abortion, personal freedom, and privacy.

11. Immigration Reform — The rights of legal and illegal aliens to employment and to medical and educational services are debated by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arlin Adams, Notre Dame President Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, and immigration officials and journalists.

12. Affirmative Action Versus Reverse Discrimination — Are quotas based on sex or race unconstitutional? Participants include Ellen Goodman, former EEOC Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, and United Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker.

13. Federalism — How much power the federal government can wield over state and local affairs is debated in this final episode. Among those featured are Senators Orrin Hatch and Daniel Moynihan and Columbia University professor Diane Ravitch.

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