GOV 1101 – Reflections on a New Nation

Activity Title: Reflections on a New Nation
Your Name: Marco Castillo
Department: Social Science
Course: GOV 1101 – Introduction to American Government
Activity Description:
This class assignment is intended to prompt students to consider the conflicts early Americans faced as they formed a new nation, moving from a loosely knit confederacy under the Articles of Confederation toward a more powerful and consolidated national government under the United States Constitution. The lesson plan does so by prompting students to experience the tensions of the Federalist – Anti-Federalist debate in a modern light, as they utilize the hypothetical case of a US movement towards a North American Union to prompt discussion and debate about the social, political, and economic conflicts such a move may entail.

Learning Goals:
Knowledge: Have students demonstrate knowledge about the issues and value conflicts that were at issue during the early American Federalist-Anti-federalist debates.

Skills: Students will utilize and develop their critical thinking skills and their skills in written and oral communications

Integration: Students will address the subject matter in a manner that prompts them to integrate knowledge they have developed in other classes and other contexts.

Values: Students will explore and develop their value system especially with regards social, political, and economic questions facing today’s society. Students will also demonstrate expanded cultural and global awareness and demonstrate greater proficiency in dealing with a diverse society.

This lesson will be utilized early in the semester, usually in the second class of the semester. The lesson plan usually utilizes two class periods.

The instructor will need access to a video projector, a computer, and videos that discuss the notion of a North American Union. There are good videos from credible news sources such as CNN that address this idea, giving students and introduction to the subject matter and an opportunity to ponder relevant questions.

The instructor should first, in some fashion, teach about the Federalist-Anti-federalist debate that occurred during the founding era of the United States. There are many sources for teaching on this subject matter. I like to use the video titled “Liberty! The American Revolution – Episode 6: Are We to Be a Nation?” to review this time period in America’s history. After teaching this lesson, pose the following hypothetical scenario to students.

Are you a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist? The Case of the North American Union

Taking into consideration what we have learned about the nature of the Federalist – Anti – Federalist debate, consider the case of the hypothetical formation of a North American Union. The North American Union (NAU) is a theoretical economic, and in some instances also a political, union of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The concept is loosely based on the European Union, occasionally including the formation of a common currency called the “Amero” or the North American Dollar.

While the idea for some form of union has been discussed or proposed in academic, business and political circles for many decades, government officials from all three nations say there are no plans to create such a union and no agreement to do so has been signed. Nevertheless, the increases in trade among these three countries following the NAFTA trade agreement of 1994 and other regional level agreements such as the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) has led to various conspiracy theories regarding this topic.

1. The “Amero” or “North American Dollar”
2. The NAFTA Superhighway

After viewing the assigned videos regarding the formation of a North American Union from mainstream news sources such as CNN, please answer the following questions for thought and classroom discussion:

1. What is your immediate reaction to talk of a North American Union? In terms of your initial impression, do you like or dislike this idea?

2. Please take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to think about this question more thoroughly. Are there some positives that can result of a North American Union? And what specifically are the negatives? Please write down your ideas about the pros and cons of a possible formation of a North American Union. In doing so, please consider the social, political, and economic implications of such a union.

For Instructor: Please utilize the aforementioned questions to stimulate and guide classroom discussion. Review the two questions with the students and asked students to state and explain the positions they have noted on paper. Then have the students share their positions with the class. One simple way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the chalkboard labeling the left side of the line “Pros” and the right side of the line “Cons.” Ask students to share what they have written on their paper, highlighting what they like or dislike about the potential formation of a North American Union. Write down the pros and cons offered by the students on the board and use this information to engage in a classroom discussion about the matter.

After thoroughly addressing the pros and cons of the subject matter, highlight to students how the discussion you have just engaged in was in many ways similar to that between the Federalists and Anti – Federalists at the nation’s founding. The idea of a vast united nation was in many ways as alien to many Americans at the time as the formation of a North American Union would be to us today. Joining into a united nation prompted similar concerns among the Anti – Federalists, as they too were concerned about the social, political, and economic implications of such a union. There were major concerns regarding the loss of individuality, freedom, and the reduced role and power of the political entities within which Americans at the time were accustomed to living in, that entity being the state. Draw parallels between the concerns students have about the forming of a North American Union and the concerns the Anti – Federalists had regarding the forming of the United States of America. Your students should see the parallels and this assignment should help your students see the historical Federalist – Anti – Federalist debate in a new light.

3. At the conclusion of the assignment, you may also asked students to take a vote regarding the matter. Would they vote to join in North American Union or not? The outcomes of this vote can further reinforce your lesson regarding the nature of the Federalists – Anti – Federalist debate! 

This assignment is intended to be a low-stakes activity to prompt student engagement in the subject matter and stimulate student interest. As such, my assessment of the activity is based on the student’s demonstrated degree of effort and thoughtfulness in addressing the activity’s questions and the student’s ability to articulate his or her position and perspectives to the class. I typically will utilize this activity as an extra credit assignment, adding 1-3 points to the first class exam depending on the level of student effort and ability to share ideas and perspectives with fellow classmates.

This assignment has aided my teaching, giving me the opportunity to quickly engage student interest early in the semester and a way to show students the history and politics is relevant to their lives. Student feedback is positive as evidenced by the lively discussion this activity typically creates. This activity could be used in classes on American history, political science, and perhaps interdisciplinary courses that address questions about globalization.