Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
Students & Families Educators & Administrators Teaching, Learning & Testing Data & Accountability Finance & Funding About the Department Education Board  

Archived Information

History and Social Science
Curriculum Framework

IX. Learning Standards and Examples,

Strand Four: Civics and Government

Learning Standard 16: Authority, Responsibility, and Power.

Students will explain forms of authority in government and other institutions; explain purposes of authority and distinguish authority from mere power, as in "a government of laws, but not of men"; and describe responsible and irresponsible exercise of both authority and power.

Learning Standard Components
(Core Knowledge and Skills)
Students learn school and classroom rules and individual responsibilities:
  • who makes rules;
  • reasons for specific rules;
  • comparisons with rules at home and in going to and from schools;
  • why rules apply to all.
PreK-2: As they read stories, such as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," students describe interactions of characters and explain differences between fair and selfish characters.

Grades 3-4: Students write short essays explaining specific school rules or traffic and pedestrian laws; read biographies of government or civic leaders and describe their responsibilities, exercise of authority, and contributions.

Students describe authority and responsibilities of custodians, teachers, librarians, principals, public servants, and historical figures in government and other walks of life.
Grades 5-8
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History, students:
  • identify elected and appointed officials and their authority and responsibilities;
  • learn laws that specify duties and limits to authority of public servants;
  • learn the nature, purposes, and limits of majority rule;
  • describe and compare legitimate exercise of authority, abuse of office and power, historical effects of and public responses to each.
Students correspond with elected or appointed officials, asking how and why they have applied their authority to specific problems.

Students research the differences between a government of laws and a government of men and assess the reasons historically given for each.
Grades 9-10
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History, students:
  • compare democracy with tyranny; describe and appraise government by the one, the few, and the many, and their consequences;
Students explain how and why, in various stages of the French Revolution, power shifted from moderates to extremists, and finally into the hands of the military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte.

They explain the spread of democratic and constitutional government in the 20th century, along with obstacles to its advance.
  • describe relations among governmental authority, social justice, individual liberty, and public safety.
  • compare and contrast ways of life under limited and unlimited government in specific times and places.
As they study the Holocaust, students explain the irreconcilability of unlimited government power with justice. Returning to consideration of governments and laws and of men, they explain and appraise Lord Acton's assertion, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Grades 11-12
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History, students:
  • describe, analyze, and appraise uses of governmental authority to alter social conditions, such as labor laws that legalized union organizing, collective bargaining, and democratic voting in workplaces.
Students describe the part of government in the 20th century gains in power made by women, minority groups, and grassroots movements, and explain the political and economic conditions, leaders, and methods aiding their causes in the United States.

Students explain the imbalance between the political power of American workers and their employers up to the 1940s, despite universal manhood suffrage, and explain subsequent steps by government to redress that imbalance.
Distinguish right from power and assess the assertion "might makes right." Students prepare a report on the incidence of violent crime in Massachusetts since 1975 and consider the merits of specific laws and policies intended to reduce violent crime.

Learning Standard 17: The Founding Documents.

Students will learn in progres-sively greater detail the content and the history of the Founding Documents of the United States the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, and selected Federalist papers (as required by the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993). They will assess the reasoning, purposes, and effectiveness of the documents; and, similarly, elements of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Learning Standard Components
(Core Knowledge and Skills)
Students learn appropriate classroom conduct, such as sharing, taking turns (and related habits that implicitly involve treating others as equals, irrespective of individual differences.)
PreK-2: As they read stories, such as the "Ugly Duckling," students discuss how everyone feels when treated badly or unfairly.
As developmentally appropriate, students learn of efforts by individuals and groups to secure fair and equal treatment for everyone and efforts of others to thwart justice. Grades 3-4: Students read biographies of women and men who have contributed to the cause of equal rights for all; learn to recognize them in pictures; write essays on their sacrifices, achievements, and perseverance against obstacles.
Grades 5-8
Students identify authors and other key figures in drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence, and in drafting and ratifying the United States Constitution:
  • They describe the circumstances in which each was written and the basic content of each document.
  • They explain the meaning of "all men are created equal," the differences between granting rights and securing them, the relations between "just powers" and "consent of the governed," and the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances.
As they learn the elements of the Declaration of Independence, students study John Trumbull's painting, "The Declaration of Independence" (reproduced on the reverse side of the two- dollar Federal Reserve Note or "two- dollar bill"); explain that the painting does not depict the signing of the Declaration; and identify the persons depicted in the painting and their respective parts in the drafting and adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

As students memorize the Preamble, they explain the meaning of each reason given for ordaining and establishing the Constitution.
Grades 9-10
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History, students:
  • describe influences of the Founding Documents on other declarations of rights and constitutions since 1789;
  • learn of differing views of human nature, legitimate authority, purposes of government, and regard for human rights in world history and in contemporary nations.
Students compare the Preamble and selected portions of the Charter of the United Nations, and one or more twentieth century constitutions, to the U.S. Constitution. In studying world history and current events, they write essays on the extent to which human rights are secure in specific places.
Grades 11-12
Students acquire in-depth understanding of the Founding Documents, including selected Federalist papers and Anti-Federalist positions, key addresses and papers by political and civic leaders, and changes in law designed to fulfill more justly the promise of the Founding Documents.
As they restudy the Declaration of Independence line by line and portions of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, students write essays and make presentations on selected Federalist papers, assessing their arguments. (Papers assigned by teachers might include: Federalist 1 on the plan of the papers; Federalist 10 and 51 on human nature, the meaning of "faction," the means of avoiding the worst effects of faction, including violence and both majority and minority tyranny, and the ultimate purpose of government and civil society; Federalist 14 on the value of union; Federalist 23 on the need for a strong central government; Federalist 39 on the meaning of "republic"; Federalist 47 and 48 on reasons for the necessity of separation of powers; Federalist 57, 62, 70 and 78 on the House of Representatives, Senate, the executive branch, and the judiciary, respectively; and Federalist 84 on the question of the need for a Bill of Rights.) Students also discuss reasons given for opposition to ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
Students explain the ideals of human dignity and the rights of individuals fundamental to the arguments of the Declaration of Independence. Students describe in detail relationships between the arguments of the Declaration of Independence and the content of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and write essays on the question of whether a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal can long endure."

Learning Standard 18: Principles and Practices of American Government.

Students will describe how the United States government functions at the local, state, national, and international levels, with attention to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, its Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants, and the basic elements of its Frame of Government; analyze the background and evolution of constitutional and democratic government in the United States to the present day; and explain the place of institutions of government in securing the rights of citizens.

Learning Standard Components
(Core Knowledge and Skills)
Students identify patriotic symbols, pledges, songs, portions of speeches and documents, poetry, such as:
  • American and Massachusetts flags;
  • Pledge of Allegiance;
  • "The Star Spangled Banner."
PreK-2: Students describe historical figures, holidays, and monuments that have to do with people's quests for freedom, justice, equality, and self-government.
They explain the meaning of the words, symbols, and ideas in the songs, pledges, texts. Grades 3-4: In their music class, students research the origins of several American patriotic and folk songs, then sing and play them on instruments; memorize and discuss poems, parts of speeches and documents; and write poems.
Grades 5-8
Students describe how the ideals expressed in key documents relate to the structures, functions, and powers of national, state, and local governments, including:
  • the division of powers among levels of government;
  • the units of Massachusetts government cities, towns, counties, and regional authorities;
  • the election and appointment of officials;
  • the history and practice of the town meeting form of local government.
Students debate opposing arguments of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists during the struggle for ratification of the Constitution.

Students read portions of the Massachusetts Constitution and explain their applications in state government today.
Students describe the establishment of the judicial system in the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions, including:
  • the organization and jurisdiction of the courts;
  • the process of judicial review;
  • the process of criminal and civil suits;
  • the process of the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts.
Students compare the election process at the national, state, and local levels of government.
Students visit a local court and interview judges and lawyers about their authority and responsibilities.
They describe the process of:
  • nomination and promotion of candidates for elective office;
  • the role and functioning of the Electoral College;
  • similarities and differences among the major political parties.
Students hold a mock election in their school and compare the results with those of their community.
Students describe and evaluate data and materials related to voter turnout, media coverage and editorializing, campaign advertising, campaign financing.

They compare the policy-making process at the national state, and local levels.
Students collect data on campaign financing in the nation, state, city, and town and estimate how much money is spent nationally on political campaigns in a presidential election year.
They describe and compare:
  • the basic legislative process at all levels;
  • the interaction between chief executives and legislative bodies;
  • the role of political parties;
  • how lobbyists, academics, individuals, private foundations, cultural, ethnic,and other interest groups, and the media can influence policy-makers and legislative agenda;
  • effects of the media on public opinion and public policy;
  • the function of departments, agencies, and regulatory bodies.
Students understand tensions over the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in history.
Students in a school district governed by a town meeting study that form of government. They participate in a mock town meeting in which they prepare, debate, and vote on warrant articles. They interview town meeting members and local government officials about the process, and attend town meeting sessions to document how issues are presented, debated, and resolved. They then compare this local process with descriptions and analyses of the legislative process at the state and national level.

Students explain the degree to which the provisions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were overridden during the Civil War, and the degree to which they were respected under dangerous conditions.
Grades 9-10
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History for this and earlier grade spans, students trace the origins and shaping of western democracy.
Students describe the influences of the Magna Carta, Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment on the evolution of democratic and constitutional forms of government.

They compare the fundamental principles of American government and law to the political philosophies of such leading European political thinkers as Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau.
Grades 11-12
Students analyze and compare primary source documents such as the Magna Carta, English Bill of Rights, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitutions of the United States and Massachusetts.

They understand the reasons for the adoption of amendments to the United States Constitution.
Students debate issues where the ideals of liberty and equality may conflict, and why such conflict is natural in a democracy, and why a measure of each is necessary to preserve the other.
Students understand landmark interpretations of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, including the importance of Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, Dred Scott v. Sanford, Plessy v. Ferguson, National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade. Students read and discuss portions of the original decisions and opinions.
They understand and analyze political and legal issues in contemporary American society and how Supreme Court decisions have affected these issues. Students examine how the work of individuals and organizations influenced the achievement of equal rights. They study the contributions of African-Americans such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr.; they study the actions of the NAACP, the Freedom Riders, and the effects of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s, and current campaigns for equal opportunities.

Learning Standard 19: Citizenship.

Students will learn the rights and duties of citizens and the principle of equal rights for all; consider the nature of civic virtue in a school, a community, a nation; and identify major obstacles and threats to civil rights.

Learning Standard Components
(Core Knowledge and Skills)
Students learn that they are citizens of their school, and the school's expectations of its citizens:
  • how to give consideration to others;
  • fairness;
  • courage, as distinguished from needlessly taking dangerous risks or exposing others to harm;
  • self-control and patience with oneself and others;
  • how to work effectively alone and in cooperation with others.
They recognize and explain individual conduct that makes life better for everyone, and learn of people whose contributions deserve to be admired.
PreK-2: As students read stories of girls and boys they would like to know, they discuss their qualities and achievements, and how they became who they are.

Grades 3-4: Students read biographies of people who were involved in conflicts over rights, such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks, and discuss their contributions to justice and the reasons their conduct has consequences. Students also write paragraphs about people they know and admire.
Grades 5-8
Students learn the ways in which individuals participate in the political process and in civic life.
From their experience in classroom and schoolwide deliberations, students explain the needs, both practical and principled, for rules of order in group discussion and for parliamentary procedure in legislative debate and votes.

They practice skills necessary for participatory citizenship, such as respecting the rights and privacy of others, using the school library properly, deciding when compromise is appropriate and when not, and doing homework to prepare for discussion of a problem to be solved.
Students understand the relationship between rights and responsibilities in a democratic society. Students hold a debate about the meaning and implications of specific Amendments in the Bill of Rights for laws against public nuisances, regulation of controlled substances, and gun control legislation.
Students trace the development of the idea of citizenship, with a focus on ancient Greece and Rome, and the American Revolutionary period, and the history of opposition to universal suffrage.

They identify the contributions of leaders and people who made a positive difference in the community, state, nation, or world.
Students examine the courage, conviction, and works of women in the anti-slavery movement, focusing on the life of Sojourner Truth.
Grades 9-10
Students identify contributions of citizens and civic groups to public policy, legal reform, justice, and public safety.
Students read and trace the history of civil disobedience through the life and work of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They write essays on the nature of civil disobedience and the circumstances under which civil disobedience is a) justified, b) has a chance to be effective.

Students research and appraise the position and reasoning of a citizens' group in their community.
Grades 11-12
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History, students describe and appraise the current condition of democracy and human and civil rights in selected nations, including the United States.
Students compare and contrast the condition of civil rights and civic life in the Soviet Union with conditions since the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Students conduct research and present reports on the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States in the 20th century.

Learning Standard 20: Forms of Government.

Students will study, compare, contrast, and analyze diverse forms of government; the ways of life and opportunities they permit, promote, and prohibit; and their effects on human rights. They will evaluate forms of government in terms of justice, ordered liberty, efficiency, public safety, educational opportunity, and economic and social mobility.

Learning Standard Components
(Core Knowledge and Skills)
Students learn to divide labor in projects and to elect project group leaders. They contrast electing leaders with having the teachers approve leaders, and compare choosing their own groups with being assigned to groups.
PreK-2: Students experiment with making rules only by unanimous agreement and also by majority agreement, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Grades 3-4: Students read stories and biographies of people living under different kinds of political regimes, in different times, and write essays on whether they would like to live as those people lived.
Grades 5-8
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History for this and earlier grade spans, students identify the characteristics of a democratic government.
Students explain Aristotle's classical formulation of the six forms of government, and explain why he held "polity" best, and what social conditions he believed necessary to maintain it.

Students discuss the Confucian view of the virtues necessary in rulers and their people to make any form of government stable, just, and effective.
Grades 9-10
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History for this and earlier grade spans, students compare the U.S. political system with those of major democratic and authoritarian nations.
Students describe contrasts between 17th century English and French governments and explain why "divine right" absolutism was defeated by Parliamentary forces in England and remained dominant in France.

Students compare and contrast the governments of East and West Germany during and after the Cold War.
Students recognize different reasons for revolutions in different times and places. Students identify, compare, and distinguish major long and short-term causes for the French Revolution of 1789, the Chinese Revolution of 1911, and the Russian Revolution, Spring 1917.
Grades 11-12
Drawing on Core Knowledge in History of this and earlier grade spans, students compare and contrast the legitimacy of various governments.

Students recognize and explain instances in which the United States has sought to create or support democratic governments.
Students explain how post-World War II American foreign economic and military aid was aimed at supporting resistance to communism.

Students examine the part of the United States in shaping and sustaining the post-World War II government and economy of Japan.

Last Updated: September 1, 1997
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search · A-Z Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact DESE