Exploring Civil and Economic Freedom

Who Said It: Quote Match

In this document-based question, students will evaluate the Founders’ and Progressives’ views on the subjects of human nature and the purpose of government.

Founding Principles

Liberty image

Liberty

Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.

Limited Government image

Limited Government

Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.

Property Rights image

Property Rights

The natural right of all individuals to create, obtain, and control their possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, as well as the fruits of their labor.

Key Question

Evaluate the Founders’ and Progressives’ views on the subjects of human nature and the purpose of government.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Examine quotations demonstrating the Founders’ view of the purpose of government.
  • Examine quotations demonstrating the Progressives’ view of the purpose of government.
  • Evaluate the differences between the Founders’ and Progressives’ views.
  • Assess which view is more likely to protect inalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Materials

  • Handout A: Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right?
  • Handout B: Who Said It?

Background Information

The Progressive Era was a significant shift away from the traditional American understanding of the purpose of government. The Founders believed citizens could best pursue happiness if government was limited to protecting the life, liberty, and property of individuals. Civil and economic liberty, therefore, were mutually reinforcing. The Founders believed that people were naturally flawed, and government should be structured so that people’s natural self-interest would lead officials to check one another’s attempts to exercise more power than the Constitution allows. Unlike the framers of the Constitution, Progressives believed that people’s natures can and should be bettered by enlightened rulers. Therefore, they believed, government should provide citizens with the environment and the means to improve themselves through government-sponsored programs and policies and economic redistribution. To Progressives, concepts such as personal liberty — including civil and economic rights — did not matter as much as the greater goal of improving social order.

Warm-up

15 minutes

Note: Before class, copy several sets of the quote cards on Handout B: Who Said It?

  1. Project or put up an overhead of Handout A: Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right? and reveal the statements one at a time. Have students raise their hands in response to each and take brief responses to the “Why?” question.
  2. Discuss how their responses to the statements on Handout A are probably based in part on their sense of the nature of personal liberty and the purpose of just government.

Activity

20 minutes

  1. Put students in small groups, and give each group a complete set of quotes from Handout B. Students should read and discuss the quotations.
  2. Have students write paraphrases of the ideas expressed. Clarify any questions as needed.
  3. Students should analyze each quotation to determine what views it expresses. To help in their analysis, they could ask:
    • What does this quotation seem to assume about human nature?
    • How does this quotation define the purpose of government?
    • How does this quotation define civil liberty? Economic liberty?
    • How does this quotation characterize the proper relationship between the citizen and government?
  4. Have students sort the quotations into two stacks — one for Founders and one for Progressives.
  5. As a class, read all the quotations aloud and have students share their answers. Debrief as needed to clarify understanding.

Wrap-up

15 minutes

  1. Ask students to summarize what they observe in these quotations about the differences between the Founders’ philosophy on citizens and government and the Progressives’ philosophy.
  2. Return to the statements on Handout A, and apply the Founders’ and Progressives’ understandings of government. Which statements, if any, would each group be likely to support? Which, if any, would they oppose? How would you summarize the differences between the types of statements in each group?
  3. As a class, discuss the question of which philosophy is more likely to:
    • Prevent tyranny
    • Protect inalienable rights such as liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Variations

  • Post a sign on one side of the room that says “Founders” and on the other side one that says “Progressives.” Have students choose one card to paraphrase and analyze, and then stand closest to the sign they believe correctly describes the author of their quotation. Check answers and then debrief as a large group on the differences between the points of view in the quotations. Invite volunteers from each group to participate, one at a time, in a “fishbowl” discussion about their respective points of view. Allow several pairs the chance to discuss, and debrief as a large group.
  • Have students chose ONE card each to paraphrase and analyze. They should come to a decision individually as to whether the quotation comes from a Founder or a Progressive. Then have students mingle with each other, sharing their quotations and taking on identities as “Founders” or “Progressives.” Founders should look for other Founders; Progressives should look for other Progressives. Once all students have assembled into two large groups, check answers. Invite volunteers from each group to participate, one at a time, in a “fishbowl” discussion about their respective points of view. Allow several pairs the chance to discuss, and debrief as a large group.

Homework

Have students write one paragraph in response to the question: Which concept is more accurate:

“People are naturally flawed, and government should be structured so that people’s natural self-interest will lead officials to check one another’s attempts to exercise more power than the Constitution allows.”

Or

“People are naturally good, and can and should be made better through government action.”

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