Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Case Study: Interest Groups and Gun Regulations

I created a new lesson to help teach both Federalist #10 and techniques used by interest groups. Feedback welcome!
Image result for nra logo
Image result for brady campaign logo
"The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.... The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source." 
- James Madison on the benefits of pluralism in Federalist 10
  • To analyze whether there is a pluralism of factions in a policy area of your choice.
  • In class, we looked at the the following sources about the NRA and the Brady Campaign. Then we made a list of techniques used by each interest group. Lastly, we analyzed whether there is a pluralism of interest groups on the policy area of gun control. Do interest groups check each other, or does one have too much influence? In other words, what would Madison think?
  • For homework, write three paragraphs about a different policy area...
    • 1st Paragraph: Identify and explain three techniques used by an interest group.
    • 2nd Paragraph: Identify and explain three techniques used by another interest group
    • 3rd Paragraph: Evaluate whether a pluralism exists in your policy area. Do interest groups check each other, or does one have too much influence? Would Madison be happy? 
    • List of quality websites 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 Poll of Gov Students!

Last year, almost 2,000 students from 30+ states completed my poll in their AP Government classes! This was a HUGE undertaking but definitely was a huge learning experience for myself and most importantly my students as well as yours hopefully. 

Here is the 2015 poll for your students! This year, it is open to non-AP Gov students too!

Share this too so that as many people as possible can participate. My goal is 3,500 from 45 states! I hope we do many more than that! Thank you!

If there are ANY issues, let me know.  Let's try to get this done by November 15. I will then aim to have the stats out around Thanksgiving!

You were all so instrumental last year in this! Can't wait to see what this year brings. As I did last year, I will ABSOLUTELY be writing your APs and Principals to let them know of your hard work and dedication to your students!

- Sean Jacobsen (@APGovJacobsen)
P.S. Below is the 2014 Data!

Detailed State-by-State Data:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mock Supreme Court Oral Arguments

Over the past few years, I have developed an activity that I would describe as mock Supreme Court oral arguments. I finish every week with this 40 minute lesson that uses case summaries by It is the perfect way to close out the week in AP Government on a fun and challenging note.   

When I have described it at #hsgovchat, teachers have asked for more information. I thought I'd follow the 'Show me, don't tell me' approach and try to film it for other teachers to see/use/modify. I asked my students if they'd be up for that, and they loved the idea! So here is the final product:

If you are interested in doing this with your class, I'd recommend making Morse v. Frederick be your first case for a few reasons: 
  1. The 'Facts of the Case' and 'Question' are relatively straightforward. Just hide the 'Conclusion' until the end. 
  2. Both sides have a good precedent (Morse's attorneys can use Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and Frederick's attorneys can use Tinker v. Des Moines). 
  3. Students love hearing about a case involving high school students. It engages everyone in the room.
  4. Before you start, students can listen to a few minutes of the actual oral arguments at Oyez's case profile for Morse v. Frederick. The audio is an amazing service offered by! By listening to actual oral arguments, students understand the etiquette they need to use during oral arguments. They cannot engage in a loud and rude debate. Instead, they must win through ideas, logic, precedents, hypotheticals, history, and listening. 
You are welcome to see/use/modify the written lesson below that I share with my students:


As we go through the semester, we will do a Supreme Court case at the end of every week...
  • To summarize the facts of case and the question before the court
  • To apply constitutional concepts to real-life situations
  • To compose persuasive opening/closing statements
  • To respond to questions on your feet
  • To evaluate the arguments with a decision 


We will adopt the following routine for every case...
  • 5 min: Teacher introduces year, facts, and question
  • 2.5 min: Appellant and appellee opening statements
  • 15 min: Oral arguments with questions from judges 
  • 2.5 min: Appellee and appellant closing statements
  • 5 min: Supreme Court conference 
  • 5 min: Justices write opinions on Canvas discussion boards
  • 5 min: Teacher reveals actual outcome and significance


We will be graded on...
  • Attorneys will receive "Complete" or "Incomplete" based on: 1) Well-written and well-researched opening/closing statement before oral arguments and 2) Quality responses to questions during oral arguments
  • Justices will receive "Complete" or "Incomplete" based on: 1) Quality questions and active listening during oral arguments and 2) Well-written opinion with evidence from oral arguments


We will be prepared to go on your assigned day...

Case from
Political Parties
Interest Groups
Supreme Court
Civil Liberties
Civil Liberties
Civil Rights

If you try this in your class, please let me know. I'd love to hear how it goes. I'm also always looking for ways to improve it for future classes.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Please contact Justin Christensen at @justinchristen with questions.