Civic Literacy Curriculum Guides
Section 3 | Rights and Responsibilities
Scholar, editor, and diplomat James Russell Lowell observed that Americans had wrongly convinced themselves that the U.S Constitution was a “machine that would go of itself.” As Lowell argued, neither the Constitution nor the American government could be taken for granted. A free republic only endures because citizens appreciate both the rights and the responsibilities necessary to its survival, recognizing liberties and duties. Thus, acts such as voting, paying taxes, casting educated votes, serving on juries, defending the country in the armed forces, and participating in civic organizations are all important to the continuation of the American constitutional republic.
Q63: There are several amendments to the US Constitution about who can vote. Which of these is not one of them?
One of the most common types of constitutional amendments is the expansion of federally guaranteed suffrage, or the ability to vote in elections.
Q64: Who can vote in federal elections, run for federal office, and serve on a jury in the United States?
The Founding Fathers created a representative republic, one where the government answered to its citizens—and whose offices were filled by them.
Q65: Which of the following rights does everyone living in the United States have?
There were bills of rights in America before the U.S. Constitution had one. Indeed, precisely because most states had bills of rights in their state constitutions checking their state governments, critics of the Constitution wanted a similar set of guarantees in the federal Constitution.
Q66: What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
Flags motivate soldiers, who can see when they have taken an enemy position—as the famous image of Marines raising the flag at Mount Suribachi during the Battle at Iwo Jima attests.
Q67+Q68: American Citizenship
For most Americans, citizenship comes from their place of birth. Other Americans become citizens through the citizenship of one or both of their parents, even if born abroad, or by being naturalized through the immigration process.
Q69+Q70: Civic Participation and Service
There are many ways to participate in America's constitutional republic, such as voting, joining a political party or civic group, or contacting one's representative. In addition to civic participation like this, one can serve one's country by, for example, following the law, serving in the military, or working in government.
Q71: Which is not a reason to pay federal taxes?
The federal government’s tax power has always been controversial. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” What did that mean, and what could they spend it on?
Q72: Why is it important for all men age 18 to 25 to register for the Selective Service?
The Selective Service is the program in which all males in the United States between the age of 18 and 25 (so up to their 26th birthday) are required to register for a program of potential military conscription (being drafted to serve in the military). Registration is required by law as a part of one’s civic duty, and is intended to ensure a draft would be fair.