AP US Government~ State and Local Government and Politics

Idea #1 >Students examine the size of their own State bureaucracies by using interactive map at Poli-Central http://policentral.mcgraw-hill.com/policentral/html/educate/local.html#

Then have Students watch and discuss video on the relationships between Congress and the states.   Interesting video from Annenberg CPB on Wolves as a protected species. (Other segments include drunk driving and welfare reform.  Also use the “Critical Thinking” exercise, which explains different models of Federalism and the topic overview.

Note that though this video is not new, the issue of Wolves in Idaho has resurfaced recently, providing an interesting tie-in to current Federal/State issues.

“Federalism: U.S. vs. the States”


Additional background information on this issue can be found at Wolves as endangered species




 Idea #2 Initiatives– Have students discuss the following: are initiatives a way that citizens can have a more powerful voice over entrenched legislators and powerful interests?  Or do initiative measures; such as tax limiting  propositions hamstring the government?  Most political scientists would argue t the record of the initiative is a mixed one. Sometimes initiative measures overcome opposition to change by entrenched legislators and powerful interests. But Initiatives have resulted in laws that make governing more difficult.   This is particularly true in initiatives capping property taxes in such a way school systems can’t get the budgets they need.

Or// use “Which Local System”   Some localities are governed by a strong mayor–council system, whereas others are governed by a weak mayor–council system, a city manager system, or a commission system. What do you see as the relative strengths and weakness of these different systems? If you had the power to choose one for your community, which would it be?

 Idea #3 Students participate in Citizens Action Simulation found on Poli-Central, a website made available from McGraw Hill~“Citizen Action” http://policentral.mcgraw-hill.com/policentral/html/engage/simulate.html#

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Idea #4 Students debate the following topic:  The Federal Government should defer to the States   This Debate—which looks at specifically at Medical Marijuana is found on Poli-Central:


Or/ Students debate: “Interest groups have hijacked the initiative “process. Also found on Poli-Central

Idea #5 Students Examine Daniel Elazar’s “Political culture of the states”.

You can find a summary with maps at

http://academic.regis.edu/jriley/421elazar.htm  Even though Elazar’s ideas may be a bit dated, students enjoy discussing them.

Divide students into three groups and have each group present Elazar’s ideas about each region. Once all the presentations have been made let students critique the ideas

As the discussion winds down ask students whether such big generalizations, which are bound to have many exceptions and oversimplifications, are useful or whether scholars should confine themselves to more narrow studies.

On the Web:

 National Governors’ Association- Students may find it interesting and useful to know that states actually share ideas on a pretty systematic basis:

The website of the National Governor’s Association shows this sort of sharing in action:


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