Lesson 2: Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation
Time Estimated: 2 days
- Summarize the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation recognizing the structural framework as the primary problem.
- Suggest revisions to correct the weaknesses.
- Compare their solutions to those found in the Constitution
- Copies of the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation (use textbooks or copies)
- Structual Diagram comparing federal, unitary systems to a confederation
- Reading from an American history text on the weaknesses of the Constitution.
- Hook: Divide the class into three groups and tell the students to select their favorite rock band. Following the rules, they must select only one band.
- Designate different rules of the game for each group to come to a decision; a simple majority, a 2/3rds majority, and unanimity. Give the class 10 minutes to complete the task and then ask students what happened, posing the following questions:
- Was it difficult to come to a decision? Why? Why not?
- Do the rules of the game matter?
- What would be a reasonable rule to expedite decision-making?
- Would the issue matter, e.g., would more serious or polarizing issues require a larger vote?
- Discuss with students the importance of the rules…"the rules of the game determine the outcome." (As an example, talk about how changing the rules in football would change the outcome and alter the way the game is played.). Tell them that we are beginning a study on the rules that govern our country and you will learn about the rules that created problems facing our country with its first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation.
- Place students in small heterogeneous groups to work on the charts. Ask them to recommend changes. Discuss the changes. Refer them to the Constitution to complete the chart. When completed, summarize findings.
- Lecture briefly on the structural problems of the Articles passing out the chart or using an overhead projector or a smart board comparing a federal system with a confederation and a unitary system. Emphasize the crucial difference between a federal system and a confederation: the national government in a federal system is able to exercise power directly on individuals whereas in a confederation, the national government has no direct power over individuals, but must use the state government as a conduit to the people (see charts). Make sure students understand that this was the critical issue before the convention, the distribution of power between the national government and the states. This is clearly demonstrated by the conflict over representation in the Congress, the elastic clause and Article VI and the later addition of the 10th Amendment.
- Homework: Assign students a reading in the history text that discusses the provisions of the Constitution.
- Assessment: Rubric for Charts.
Strategically group students heterogeneously and circulate the room working individually with students.