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Instructional Resources

Series Info

Episodes: 15

Length: 30 min.

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12, Adult Learning

Social Studies

Video on Demand
Teacher's Guide
Web Resource 2
Web Resource 1


Democracy in America

Democracy in America is a unique 15-part video course in civics, covering topics of civic knowledge, skills, and dispositions. the videos combines video, print, and Web resources to provide a deeper understanding of the principles and workings of American democracy. By combining compelling video stories of individuals interacting with American government, theoretical discussions of the meaning of democracy, and problem-solving, hands-on exercises, the course gives life to the workings of American democracy.

Episode Guide

1. Citizenship: Making Government Work— Explores the tension between maintaining order and preserving freedoms, the essential role of politics in addressing the will of the people, and the need for citizens to participate in order to make democracy work.

2. The Constitution: Fixed or Flexible?—Examines the search for balance between the original Constitution and the need to interpret and adjust it to meet the needs of changing times.

3. Federalism: U.S. v. the States—Explores federalism as a Constitutional compromise, especially in terms of present-day conflicts between people who believe that power should reside primarily in the national government and those who want government authority retained within the states.

4. Civil Liberties: Safeguarding the Individual—Examines the First, Fourth, and Sixth Constitutional Amendments to show how the Bill of Rights protects individual citizens from excessive or arbitrary government interference.

5. Civil Rights: Demanding Equality—Looks at the nature of the guarantees of political and social equality, and the roles that individuals and government have played in expanding these guarantees to less-protected segments of society.

6. Legislatures: Laying Down the Law—Explores the idea that legislatures, although contentious bodies, are institutions composed of men and women who make representative democracy work by reflecting and reconciling the wide diversity of views held by Americans.

7. The Modern Presidency: Tools of Power—Shows that the American Presidency has been transformed since the 1930s. Today, presidents are overtly active in the legislative process: they use the media to appeal directly to the people and they exercise leadership over an “institutional presidency” with thousands of aides.

8. Bureaucracy: A Controversial Necessity—Reveals how the American bureaucracy delivers significant services directly to the people, how it has expanded in response to citizen demands for increased government services, and how bureaucrats sometimes face contradictory expectations that are difficult to satisfy.

9. The Courts: Our Rule of Law—Examines the role of courts as institutions dedicated to conflict resolution, with the power both to apply and to interpret the meaning of law in trial and appeal courts.

10. The Media: Inside Story Explores the media as an integral part of American democracy, highlighting the scrutiny they impose on the performance of public officials, the interdependence of politics and the media, and the power the media wields in selecting the news.

11. Public Opinion: Voice of the People—Examines the power of public opinion to influence government policy, the increasing tendency of public officials to rely on polls, and the need to use many forms of feedback to get an accurate measure of public opinion.

12. Political Parties: Mobilizing Agents—Shows how political parties perform important functions that link the public to the institutions of American government.

13. Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy—Explores the crucial role of strategy in the two-stage electoral campaign system; the opportunities for citizens to choose, organize, and elect candidates who will pursue policies they favor; and the need for campaigns to increase voter turnout by educating citizens about the importance and influence of their vote.

14. Interest Groups: Organizing To Influence—Shows how America’s large number of corporate, citizen-action, and grass-roots interest groups enhance our representative process by giving citizens a role in shaping policy agendas.

15. Global Politics: U.S.A. and the World—Examines the need for the United States to use the tools of foreign policy in ways that recognize the growing interdependence of nations — implementing both traditional and new forms of military, trade, and diplomatic strategies to promote benefits for America and the world as a whole.

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