As we move forward in thinking about how we might re-imagine civic education here in Florida, one of the most common questions we hear is ‘Do kids learn about the Constitution and American principles at all?’ This is certainly an important question, especially as we increasingly see questions about such things as checks and balances and civil rights in the news. Recently, we took a closer look at our state standards and benchmarks to see if we could answer that question affirmatively. So let’s take a short dive into things!

Our first consideration addresses reference to the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and the principles of the Market Economy.

The table below is broken down by grade level.

Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers, and the Market Economy
9th-12th Grades SS.912.C.1.1 – Evaluate, take, and defend positions on the founding ideals and principles in American Constitutional government.
SS.912.C.1.2 – Explain how the Declaration of Independence reflected the political principles of popular sovereignty, social contract, natural rights, and individual rights.
SS.912.C.1.3 – Evaluate the ideals and principles of the founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Federalist Papers) that shaped American Democracy.SS.912.C.1.4 – Analyze and categorize the diverse viewpoints presented by the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists concerning ratification of the Constitution and inclusion of a bill of rights.SS.912.C.1.5 – Evaluate how the Constitution and its amendments reflect the political principles of rule of law, checks and balances, separation of powers, republicanism, democracy, and federalism.
SS.912.C.2.1 – Evaluate the constitutional provisions establishing citizenship, and assess the criteria among citizens by birth, naturalized citizens, and non-citizens.SS.912.C.3.1 – Examine the constitutional principles of representative government, limited government, consent of the governed, rule of law, and individual rights.
SS.912.C.3.3 – Analyze the structures, functions, and processes of the legislative branch as described in Article I of the Constitution.
SS.912.C.3.4 – Analyze the structures, functions, and processes of the executive branch as described in Article II of the Constitution.
SS.912.C.3.6 – Analyze the structures, functions, and processes of the judicial branch as described in Article III of the Constitution.

SS.912.C.3.11 – Contrast how the Constitution safeguards and limits individual rights.

SS.912.C.3.14 – Examine constitutional powers (expressed, implied, concurrent, reserved).
SS.912.C.3.15 – Examine how power and responsibility are distributed, shared, and limited by the Constitution.
SS.912.W.2.8 – Describe developments in medieval English legal and constitutional history and their importance to the rise of modern democratic institutions and procedures.

8th Grade SS.8.C.1.2 – Compare views of self-government and the rights and responsibilities of citizens held by Patriots, Loyalists, and other colonists.
SS.8.C.2.1 – Evaluate and compare the essential ideals and principles of American constitutional government expressed in primary sources from the colonial period to Reconstruction.
SS.8.A.3.3 – Recognize the contributions of the Founding Fathers (John Adams, Sam Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, George Washington) during American Revolutionary efforts.
SS.8.A.3.7 – Examine the structure, content, and consequences of the Declaration of Independence.
SS.8.A.3.10 – Examine the course and consequences of the Constitutional Convention (New Jersey Plan, Virginia Plan, Great Compromise, Three-Fifths Compromise, compromises regarding taxation and slave trade, Electoral College, state vs. federal power, empowering a president).
SS.8.A.3.11 – Analyze support and opposition (Federalists, Federalist Papers, AntiFederalists, Bill of Rights) to ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
7th Grade SS.7.C.1.1 – Recognize how Enlightenment ideas including Montesquieu’s view of separation of power and John Locke’s theories related to natural law and how Locke’s social contract influenced the Founding Fathers.
SS.7.C.1.2 – Trace the impact that the Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights, Mayflower Compact, and Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” had on colonists’ views of government.
SS.7.C.1.3 – Describe how English policies and responses to colonial concerns led to the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
SS.7.C.1.4 – Analyze the ideas (natural rights, role of the government) and complaints set forth in the Declaration of Independence.SS.7.C.1.5 – Identify how the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation led to the writing of the Constitution.
SS.7.C.1.6 – Interpret the intentions of the Preamble to the Constitution.
SS.7.C.1.7 – Describe how the Constitution limits the powers of government through separation of powers and checks and balances.SS.7.C.1.8 – Explain the viewpoints of the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists regarding the ratification of the Constitution and inclusion of a bill of rights.
SS.7.C.3.3 – Illustrate the structure and function (three branches of government established in Articles I, II, and III with corresponding powers) of government in the United States as established in the Constitution.SS.7.C.3.5 – Explain the constitutional amendment process.
SS.7.C.3.8 – Analyze the structure, functions, and processes of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

SS.7.C.3.13 – Compare the constitutions of the United States and Florida.
SS.7.E.1.1 – Explain how the principles of a market and mixed economy helped to develop the United States into a democratic nation.

6th Grade SS.6.C.1.1 – Identify democratic concepts developed in ancient Greece that served as a foundation for American constitutional democracy.
SS.6.C.1.2 – Identify how the government of the Roman Republic contributed to the development of democratic principles (separation of powers, rule of law, representative government, civic duty).
SS.6.W.3.2- Explain the democratic concepts (polis, civic participation and voting rights, legislative bodies, written constitutions, rule of law) developed in ancient Greece.
SS.6.W.3.10 – Describe the government of the Roman Republic and its contribution to the development of democratic principles (separation of powers, rule of law, representative government, civic duty).
5th Grade SS.5.C.1.2 – Define a constitution and discuss its purposes.

SS.5.C.1.4 – Identify the Declaration of Independence’s grievances and the Article of Confederation’s weaknesses.

SS.5.C.1.6 – Compare Federalist and Anti-Federalist views of government.

SS.5.C.3.2 – Explain how popular sovereignty, rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and individual rights limit the powers of the federal government as expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

SS.5.C.3.4 – Describe the amendment process as defined in Article V of the Constitution and give examples.
SS.5.A.5.10- Examine the significance of the Constitution including its key political concepts, origins of those concepts, and their role in American democracy.
SS.5.E.1.2 – Describe a market economy, and give examples of how the colonial and early American economy exhibited these characteristics.

4th Grade SS.4.C.1.1 – Describe how Florida’s constitution protects the rights of citizens and provides for the structure, function, and purposes of state government.
SS.4.C.3.1 – Identify the three branches (Legislative, Judicial, Executive) of government in Florida and the powers of each.
3rd Grade SS.3.C.1.3 – Explain how government was established through a written Constitution.
SS.3.C.3.3 – Recognize that every state has a state constitution.SS.3.C.3.4 – Recognize that the Constitution of the U.S. is the supreme law of the land.
2nd Grade SS.2.C.3.1 – Identify the Constitution as the document which establishes the structure, function, powers, and limits of American government.

SS.2.C.3.2 – Recognize symbols, individuals, events, and documents that represent the United States.

1st Grade SS.1.C.3.2 – Recognize symbols and individuals that represent American constitutional democracy.

As we can see, even from first grade, students begin learning about American constitutional democracy, especially the Founding Documents!

Our next section considers civil rights and amendments to the Constitution.

Rights, Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
9th-12th Grades SS.912.C.2.6 – Evaluate, take, and defend positions about rights protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

SS.912.C.2.7 – Explain why rights have limits and are not absolute.

SS.912.C.2.9 – Identify the expansion of civil rights and liberties by examining the principles contained in primary documents. (Preamble, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation, 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th Amendments, Voting Rights Act of 1965)
SS.912.A.2.4 – Distinguish the freedoms guaranteed to African Americans and other groups with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.
SS.912.A.5.7 – Examine the freedom movements that advocated civil rights for African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and women.
SS.912.A.6.4 – Examine efforts to expand or contract rights for various populations during World War II.

8th Grade SS.8.C.1.5 – Apply the rights and principles contained in the Constitution and Bill of Rights to the lives of citizens today.

SS.8.C.1.6 – Evaluate how amendments to the Constitution have expanded voting rights from our nation’s early history to present day.

7th Grade SS.7.C.2.4 – Evaluate rights contained in the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the Constitution.

SS.7.C.3.6 – Evaluate constitutional rights and their impact on individuals and society.

SS.7.C.3.7 – Analyze the impact of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments on participation of minority groups in the American political process.

5th Grade SS.C.5.1.3 – Explain the definition and origin of rights.
SS.5.C.1.4 – Identify the Declaration of Independence’s grievances and Articles of Confederation’s weaknesses.
SS.5.C.1.5 – Describe how concerns about individual rights led to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.SS.5.C.2.3 – Analyze how the Constitution has expanded voting rights from our nation’s early history to today.
SS.5.C.3.1 – Describe the organizational structure (legislative, executive, judicial branches) and powers of the federal government as defined in Articles I, II, and III of the U.S. Constitution.
SS.5.C.3.2 – Explain how popular sovereignty, rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and individual rights limit the powers of the federal government as expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.SS.5.C.3.4 – Describe the amendment process as defined in Article V of the Constitution and give examples.

SS.5.C.3.5 – Identify the fundamental rights of all citizens as enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

2nd Grade SS.2.C.2.3 – Explain why United States citizens have guaranteed rights and identify rights.

Again, learning begins early! Students start getting a sense of their individual rights as early as 2nd grade.

Finally, we took a look at the legal system and the US Supreme Court, the final bulwark for (or sometimes impediment to) civil and constitutional rights.

The Legal System / Supreme Court Cases
9th-12th Grades SS.912.C.3.7 – Describe the role of judicial review in American constitutional government.

SS.912.C.3.8 – Compare the role of judges on the state and federal level with other elected officials.

SS.912.C.3.9 – Analyze the various levels and responsibilities of courts in the federal and state judicial system and the relationships among them.

SS.912.C.3.10 – Evaluate the significance and outcomes of landmark Supreme Court cases. (Examples are Marbury v. Madison, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona, Tinker v. Des Moines, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, United States v. Nixon, Roe v. Wade, Bush v. Gore, Texas v. Johnson, Mapp v. Ohio, McCulloch v. Maryland, District of Columbia v. Heller.)

SS.912.C.3.11 – Contrast how the Constitution safeguards and limits individual rights.

SS.912.C.3.12 – Simulate the judicial decision-making process in interpreting law at the state and federal level.
SS.912.A.7.8 – Analyze significant Supreme Court decisions relating to integration, busing, affirmative action, the rights of the accused, and reproductive rights (Plessy v. Ferguson [1896], Brown v. Board of Education [1954], Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education [1971], Regents of the University of California v. Bakke [1978], Miranda v. Arizona [1966], Gideon v. Wainwright [1963], Mapp v. Ohio [1961], and Roe v. Wade [1973])

7th Grade SS.7.C.2.5 – Distinguish how the Constitution safeguards and limits individual rights.

SS.7.C.2.6 – Simulate the trial process and the role of juries in the administration of justice.

SS.7.C.3.10 – Identify sources and types of law.

SS.7.C.3.11 – Diagram the levels, functions, and powers of courts at the state and federal levels.

SS.7.C.3.12 – Analyze the significance and outcomes of landmark Supreme Court cases (Marbury v. Madison, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona, In re Gault, Tinker v. Des Moines, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, United States v. Nixon, and Bush v. Gore, District of Columbia v. Heller)

5th Grade SS.5.C.3.6 – Examine the foundations of the United States legal system by recognizing the role of the courts in interpreting law and settling conflicts.

So when we look at the standards and benchmarks as a whole, I believe we can say that yes, we ARE teaching the principles of American constitutional democracy IF we are teaching to the standards and benchmarks. Admittedly, that can be a VERY big IF. What does our pedagogy look like, and do we understand the content that we are suppose to be teaching? These are more difficult questions that require a great more detail and nuance to answer effectively. We hope to explore those very questions at some point soon.

We are always happy to answer questions about Florida Civics as well. In a later post, we will begin tracing how we got to our current point in civic education here in the Sunshine State.

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