American Politics:Constitutional Convention Paper Assignment
Overview: One of the themes we’ve discussed this semester is how the U.S. government works and what its shortcomings are. It should be obvious by now that there are lots of inefficiencies in our political process and many areas that could be improved. The question we will address in our Constitutional Convention activity is: what exact reforms should be made? How would we, as a class, amend the Constitution if we had a chance?
Constitutional Convention Paper Requirements
POLS 140-02: American Politics
Constitutional Convention Paper Assignment
One of the themes we’ve discussed this semester is how the U.S. government works and what its shortcomings are. It should be obvious by now that there are lots of inefficiencies in our political process and many areas that could be improved. The question we will address in our Constitutional Convention activity is: what exact reforms should be made? How would we, as a class, amend the Constitution if we had a chance?
On Dec. 2nd and 4th we will hold a mini Constitutional Convention. We’ll imagine that 2/3 of the states have petitioned Congress to call for a national convention to amend the Constitution, and that we are the members of that convention. We will discuss possible amendments, debate the pros and cons of them, and vote on whether to formally propose them (at which point they must be ratified by 3/4 of state legislatures before they are added to the Constitution). The full set of rules for the convention is available on Moodle.
To prepare for the convention, you will submit a paper in which you will identify two amendments you think will improve the U.S. government. One of these amendments must be institutional in nature (i.e. propose a change how federalism works or the way the three branches of government and the bureaucracy exercise their powers), and the other must be political in nature (i.e. it may address any other aspect of the political system, such as elections, campaigns, political parties, interest groups, the media, civil rights and liberties, etc.). I encourage you to get creative with your amendments. There is a document on Moodle with some amendments that have been proposed in the past, but those are certainly not the only, or maybe even not the best, ways to change the government. I intend for that document to jump-start your thinking process, not substitute for it. One of your amendments may be chosen for debate during our convention.
For each of the two amendments, your paper should do the following:
1. Explain why you think the current way we do things is a problem.
2. Use the website Constitute, which tracks constitutions across the world, to see how other countries handle this. It is organized by topic, so you should easily be able to identify related provisions in other countries’ constitutions. Describe relevant constitutional provisions from at least two other countries and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.
3. Write out the full text of your amendment exactly how it should appear if it were to be added to the Constitution. Your amendment may add language to the Constitution, change a current provision in the Constitution, or clarify a part of the existing Constitution. Be concise in your amendment.
4. Explain your rationale behind your amendment. How will it improve our political process? Why do you think this is the best way to reform the U.S. government?
This paper will be worth 10% of your overall course grade. To receive full credit, your paper must satisfy the following requirements:
• Be approximately 6 pages long, double-spaced, and written in 11- or 12-point font, with 1-inch margins.
• Be written in essay form with full sentences and paragraphs, not bullet points (you may use headings to make your paper readable).
• Fully discuss all four of the points outlined above for both of your proposed amendments.
• Be well-written, using correct grammar, spelling, word choice, writing style, and sentence and paragraph structure. I encourage you to visit the Writing Center for help with your paper, particularly if you have struggled with writing in the past or with other courses.
Cite all sources you have used in writing your paper. This includes the Constitute website and any other sources you consult. My preference is for you to include an in-text citation (such as a parenthetical citation or a footnote) when you use a source, and then include a Works Cited page at the end with a full citation to the source. You may use any citation format you wish, as long as it is complete, consistent, and correct. Once more, the Writing Center can help you with properly citing your sources.v