Federalism: A Tug of War

tug o warThis is from a handout I pass to my students in class during our federalism unit.  Because gay marriage is such a “hot” topic here in Texas, I decided to combine federalism with this partifular topic.  Students are always asked to use well measured responses to the questions offered in class.  This one turned out particularly well.  As with all things, I picked up some ideas here and some there…so the following can’t be claimed as my work in total, though I also can’t name who helped me along the way.

However, I ended up Skyping with a class in Missouri to complete this unit.  Once I ran into an instructor on Twitter (@MattEasley whose ideas and help were invaluable and completed this assignment in a way I couldn’t have alone) that was open to this project, we teamed up pulled off an interstate gay marriage conversation.  LOVE IT!  He’s a great guy to follow on Twitter.

Federalism: A Tug of War

The following exercise is designed to provide a better understanding of the very unique dynamic that exists in the American government between state/local government and the national government.  Since conception, the United States has struggled with Imperium in Imperio (ie. Sovereignty within sovereignty…AKA federalism), or the sharing of power between different levels of government.  This is an ever changing relationship of power & policy between the state governments and the national  government.  It is best characterized as a strained cooperation, or possibly a tug of war.  Below you’ll find a list of events, people or court cases – by indicating which way each of these affected power relationships between state and national governments, you can get a sense of how federalism has changed over time in the United States.

Finally, in the coming days I will give you a fictitious gay marriage situation in which I want you to argue either for or against using, as evidence, the information you gathered from the below data.  You will align each event somewhere in between the “state” side or the “national” side in as far as the event helped one side in the “tug of war” known as federalism.  This will be done on a separate “poster”.  You will also give a two or three sentence explanation of each event and why it is aligned where it is.  On the final day, you will place your entire poster on the board at the front of the room showing where your group stands on the fictitious situation with accompanying reasons.

State 3———2———–1—— –NEUTRAL——-1———–2———3 National

  1. U.S Constitution of 1787
  2. Article I Section 8
  3. Article I Section 9
  4. 5th Amendment “Due Process Clause”
  5. 9th Amendment
  6. 10th Amendment
  7. 14th Amendment Section 1
  8. Federalist 51
  9. Marbury v Madison
  10. McCulloch v Maryland
  11. Gibbons v Ogden
  12. U.S. v Corolene Products Footnote 4
  13. Loving v Virginia
  14. D.O.M.A.

Answer these questions for each of the entries:

  • In what specific way does your document, faction, event or Constitutional language relate to federalism and gay marriage?
  • What is the net impact of your topic in terms of federalism (where would you put it?)
  • What are the top 3 placements or arguments for your position on gay marriage?  Explain in detail.

About Thrasymachus

2013 Northwest ISD teacher of the year, Humanities Texas 2012 Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, and 2011 Outstanding Educator of North Texas Award (North Central Texas College). I'm currently a Regional Digital Learning Consultant with the Education Service Center Region 11 in Ft. Worth, Texas and a college government educator who incorporates philosophy, technology & humor. A student through and through, I walk with my students in their learning. Most importantly, I'm blessed with the 3 most perfect kids eva! I love on them ery day!!!
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