A.P. Government and Politics

    Course Essential Questions, Enduring Understandings, and Readings

    *Note that all topics will also include readings and/or discussions from contemporary sources*



    Introduction to Government and Review of Summer Assignment

    • Political Cycles
    • Power, Authority and Legitimacy

    Reading:  Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr.  The Cycles of American History.  Mariner Books, 1999.  pp 23-48.  


    Unit 1: Foundations of American Democracy

    Summary:  The U.S. Constitution arose out of important historical and philosophical ideas and preferences regarding popular sovereignty and limited government. The Constitution granted more centralized authority, while dispersing powers among three branches in the national government, and reserving powers and authority to the states to govern within their borders. Compromises were made during the Constitutional Convention and ratification debates between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, and these compromises have frequently been the source of conflict in U.S. politics over how best to protect liberty, equality, order, and private property, and over the proper balance between individual freedom, social order, and equality of opportunity.


    Unit Essential Questions:

    • How did the founders of the U.S. Constitution attempt to protect individual liberty, while also promoting public order and safety?
    • How have theory, debate, and compromise influenced the U.S. Constitutional system?
    • How does the development and interpretation of the Constitution influence policies that impact citizens and residents of the U.S.?


    Unit Enduring Understandings:

    • CON-1: The Constitution emerged from the debate about the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation as a blueprint for limited government.
    • CON-2: Federalism reflects the dynamic distribution of power between national and state governments
    • LOR-1 A balance between governmental power and individual rights has been a hallmark of American political development.
    • PMI-1: The Constitution created a competitive policy-making process to ensure the people’s will is represented and that freedom is preserved.



    Abernathy Chapters 1, 2, 3

    Lanahan - The American Political Tradition, Democratic Laboratories

    Brutus I

    Federalist 10

    Federalist 51

    Declaration of Independence

    Articles of Confederation

    Constitution: Article 4, Article 5, 10th and commerce clause, 14th Amendment

    US v. Lopez, McCulloch v. Maryland


    Unit 2: Interactions Among Branches of Government


    Because power is widely distributed and checks prevent one branch from usurping powers from the others, institutional actors are in the position where they must both compete and cooperate in order to govern.


    The three key institutions of the federal government are Congress, the presidency, and the courts. The bureaucracy, which implements policy, is seen by some as an extension of the executive branch and by others as, in effect, a fourth branch of government because of the discretion it can exercise in carrying out policy directives. The Constitution grants specific powers to Congress, the president, and the courts, and in addition, each branch exercises informal powers (developed through political practice, tradition, and legislation). Because checks and balances are designed to prevent one branch from becoming too powerful, Congress and the president, for example, will sometimes cooperate and sometimes compete in governance.


    Unit Essential Questions:

    • How do the branches of the national government compete and cooperate in order to Govern?
    • To what extent have changes in the powers of each branch affected how responsive and accountable the national government is in the 21st century?


    Unit Enduring Understandings:

    • CON-3: The republican ideal in the U.S. is manifested in the structure and operation of the legislative branch
    • CON-4: The presidency has been enhanced beyond its expressed constitutional powers
    • CON-5: The design of the judicial branch protects the Supreme Court’s independence as a branch of government, and the emergence and use of judicial review remains a powerful judicial practice
    • PMI-2: The Federal bureaucracy is a powerful institution implementing federal policies with sometimes questionable accountability.



    Abernathy Chapters 5, 6, 7

    Lanahan:  The Senate Syndrome, The Electoral Connection, The Imperial Presidency, With the Stroke of a Pen, Executive Privilege, The Federalist 78, The Roberts Court, Obergefell v Hodges and Chief Justice Roberts’ Dissent, Pursuit of Justices, The Power Elite, Bureaucracy, Locked in the Cabinet

    Constitution: Articles I, II, III, Amendment 22

    Baker v Carr and Shaw v Reno, Marbury v Madison

    Federalist 70

    Federalist 78


    Unit 3: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights


    Through the U.S. Constitution, but primarily through the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, citizens and groups have attempted to restrict national and state governments from unduly infringing upon individual rights essential to ordered liberty and from denying equal protection under the law. Likewise, it has sometimes been argued that these legal protections have been used to block reforms and restrict freedoms of others in the name of social order.


    The Fourteenth Amendment includes two clauses that affirm and protect civil rights and liberties—the due process clause and the equal protection clause. The courts must balance the desire for social order with the protection of individual rights and freedoms when considering due process and equal protection challenges.  In a process known as selective incorporation, the Supreme Court has used the power of judicial review to interpret the due process clause in such a way as to prevent states from unduly restricting fundamental freedoms. The equal protection clause provides that states may not deprive persons of equal protection under the law.


    Unit Essential Questions:

    • To what extent do the U.S. Constitution and its amendments protect against undue government infringement on essential liberties and from invidious discrimination?
    • How have U.S. Supreme Court rulings defined civil liberties and civil rights?


    Unit Enduring Understandings:

    • LOR-2: Provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are continually being interpreted to balance the power of government and the civil liberties of individuals.
    • LOR-3: Protections of the Bill of Rights have been selectively incorporated by way of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause to prevent state infringement of basic Liberties.
    • PRD-1: The Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause as well as other constitutional

    provisions have often been used to support the advancement of equality.

    • PMI-3: Public policy promoting civil rights is influenced by citizen–state interactions and constitutional interpretation over time.
    • CON-6: The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is influenced by the composition of the Court and citizen–state interactions. At times, it has restricted minority rights and, at others, protected them.



    Abernathy Chapters 8 and 9

    Lanahan: You Can’t Say That!, Gideon’s Trumpet, All Deliberate Speed

    Constitution: Bill of Rights

    Engel v Vitale, Wisconsin v Yoder, Tinker v Des Moines, Schenck v United States, NYT v United States, McDonald v Chicago, Gideon v Wainwright, Roe v Wade, Brown v Board of Education

    Letter from a Birmingham Jail


    Unit 4: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs


    American political beliefs are shaped by founding ideals, core values such as individualism, the rule of law limited government, and equality of opportunity.  They are also shaped by linkage institutions (e.g., elections, political parties, interest groups, and the media in all its forms), the changing demographics of citizens, and past and present political events. These all contribute to the process of political socialization.  These beliefs about government, politics, and the individual’s role in the political system influence the creation of public policies.


    Unit Essential Questions:

    • How are American political beliefs formed and how do they evolve over time?
    • How do political ideology and core values influence government policy making?


    Unit Enduring Understandings:

    • MPA-1: Citizen beliefs about government are shaped by the intersection of demographics, political culture, and dynamic social change.
    • MPA-2: Public opinion is measured through scientific polling, and the results of public opinion polls influence public policies and Institutions.
    • PMI-4: Widely held political ideologies shape policy debates and choices in American policies.



    Abernathy Chapters 10, 11, 12

    De Tocqueville Democracy in America

    Lanahan: Latino America, Free to Choose, The Other America, Race Matters


    Unit 5: Political Participation


    Governing is achieved directly through citizen participation and indirectly through institutions (e.g., political parties, interest groups, and mass media) that inform, organize, and mobilize support to influence government and politics, resulting in many venues for citizen influence on policy making. The principle of self-government is dependent on both citizen participation and the operation of the various linkage institutions that help citizens connect with the government. These institutions help people become a part of the policy-making process. Playing an important role in this process, the media report public opinion data and can sometimes influence the formation of that opinion as well. Social movements, political parties, interest groups, and elections also serve to connect the electorate with the government by influencing the manner in which people relate to and participate in its composition, functions, and policy-making agenda.


    Unit Essential Questions:

    • How have changes in technology influenced political communication and behavior?
    • Why do levels of participation and influence in politics vary?
    • How effective are the various methods of political participation in shaping public policies?


    Unit Enduring Understandings:

    • MPA-3: Factors associated with political ideology, efficacy, structural barriers, and demographics influence the nature and degree of political participation.
    • PMI-5: Political parties, interest groups, and social movements provide opportunities for

    participation and influence how people relate to government and policymakers.

    • PRD-2: The impact of federal policies on campaigning and electoral rules continues to be

    contested by both sides of the political spectrum.



    Abernathy Chapters 13, 14, 15, 16

    Lanahan: The Swing Vote, Are We in an Electoral Realignment?, The Power Elite, Democracy in America (Tocqueville), Going Dirty, Ground Wars, Victory Lab, Feeding Frenzy

    Constitution: Amendments 15, 17, 19, 24, 26, 1

    Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission


    Unit 6: AP U.S. Government Politics Project


    Students are provided with an opportunity to engage in a political science research or applied civics project tied to the AP U.S. Government and Politics course framework (units 1-5) that culminates in a presentation of findings.  The project provides students the opportunity to engage in a sustained, real-world activity that will deepen their understanding of the course content and help them develop the disciplinary practices that are assessed on the exam. 


    Unit Essential Questions: See essential questions in Units 1-5

    Unit Enduring Understandings: See enduring understandings in Units 1-5

Last Modified on September 26, 2019