I launched Civics Online Resource Community (CORC) March 2018, a website that “reintroduces visitors to the power of Civics so that citizens can better understand their rights and duties of citizenship to become more informed about how government work, more encouraged to get involved in the community, and vote like their life depends on it. You relearn the tenets of citizenship, put them into action, and share what you learn with fellow citizens.”
Contents include subjects regarding:
Branches of U.S. Government
How a Bill Becomes Law
Filibuster and Nuclear Option
Principles of The Constitution
The Election Process
Platforms and Planks
Commonwealth vs State
United States Territories
The Bill of Rights
Constitutional Amendments on Voting Rights
Meaning of Lady Justice
No matter what your political leaning is, as citizen, you have a duty to know how government work and to hold government accountable when it’s not functioning in ways that best serve, we the people.
“It is my belief that once citizens have a clear understanding of Civics and how government work, they will know which party or candidate is or will be instrumental in making sure government work as citizens expect it to work, and which candidate or party will be dogged in making sure government work for ALL citizens.”
The United States Constitution established three coequal branches of government: Legislative (make laws), Executive (carry out laws), and Judicial (interpret laws).
“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of The United States
There is no mention of political parties in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, George Washington, first President of the United States and one of the framers of the Constitution, was a fierce critic of political parties and distrusted them.
Washington said in his Farewell Address in 1796: "However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."
"All laws in the United States begin as bills. Before a bill can become a law, it must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President."
The Filibuster and Nuclear Option are both parliamentary procedures that allow the Senate to override a rule or delay a vote on a piece of legislation or kill it.
The United States Constitution embodies four underlying principles: Limited Government, Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, and Federalism.
“This country, and its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it . . . .” _ Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of The United States
In the U.S., we use a two-step election process to determine the winner: Primary Election and General Election.
Both political parties are organized on all levels of government: national, state, and local. With the election of a president every four years, both parties hold a national convention to nominate a candidate for president and vice president. Agreeing upon the party’s platforms and planks is part of this process.
State government is modeled after the federal (national) government and consist of the same three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Every state except Nebraska is organized as a bicameral legislature, meaning they have two separate legislative chambers, House of Representatives (House of Delegates) and Senate.
We come in contact with state government when we . . .
The United States has 50 states and 16 territories. Four states, as contained in their constitution, are called Commonwealths: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. However, there is no difference between the commonwealths and the other 46 states.
Citizens come in contact with their local and state government more often than they do with the federal government.
We come in contact with local government when we . . .
Sheriff represents local government but is not appointed to the position by the government. Instead he or she is duly elected by the people and answerable to the people. However, a sheriff can be removed from office by the governor for
dereliction of duty. A District Attorney is most commonly elected and not appointed by local government, and answerable to the people. However, the Chief of Police is appointed to the position and answerable to a local government.
Mayor is duly elected by the people to serve as head of local government and answerable to the people with veto power over the legislative branch (the council).
“The U.S. Territories refer to a group of geographical areas in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. These territories fall under the jurisdiction of the United States federal government but do not hold the same status as the 50 states of the U.S. (e.g. they are not represented in the U.S. Congress). With varied histories, these territories often reflect a mix of American culture and different local cultures, providing a unique experience for international exchange participants.”
The are 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first 10 amendments, ratified in 1791, written by James Madison are the Bill of Rights. These 10 Amendments give the states greater constitutional protection, protect individual liberties, and place limitations on the power of government.
There are six Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that address who gets to vote other than white men. Amendments that granted voting rights to black men; to all women; voting rights to D.C. residents to vote in presidential elections; rights granting two senators per state; an amendment that prohibited poll tax to vote, and an amendment that granted young adult citizens the right to vote at age 18.
The right to vote comes with a duty to vote. Voting is how citizens hold government accountable, and as citizens we have a duty to protect our democracy. Learn how to register to vote in your state.
Lady Justice, a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales, symbolizes fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, favor, greed, or prejudice. Continue reading to find out what the blindfold, sword, scales, book, snake symbolizes.
Civics Online Resource Community (C.O.R.C.) reintroduces visitors to the power of Civics so that citizens can better understand their rights and duties of citizenship to become more informed about how government work, more encouraged to get involved in the community, and vote like their life depends on it. You relearn the tenets of citizenship, put them into action, and share what you learn with fellow citizens.
Civics is a subject understudied in junior high and high school, which translates into how underappreciated it is in society today. Understanding Civics is essential to understanding that as citizens, we have a duty to know what is happening in government and be vigilant in knowing how governmental agencies and departments are managed, regardless of the political party in power.
The framers’ belief in self-government is shown in the first three words of the United States Constitution. . . ."We the people." C.O.R.C. is an online community of civic-minded citizens committed to understanding how government work and holding government accountable when it is not working as it should; citizens who vote as an act of duty; and citizens serving the community.
No matter what your political leaning is, as citizen, you have a duty to know how government work and to hold government accountable when it is not functioning in ways that best serve we the people.
It is my belief that once citizens have a clear understanding of Civics and how government work, they will know which party or candidate is or will be instrumental in making sure government work as citizens expect it to work, and which candidate or party will be dogged in making sure government work for ALL citizens.
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” __John F. Kennedy, 35th President of The United States
I hope to impress upon visitors to this site that because government is the people, for the people, and by the people, as citizens we have a duty to make sure our constitutional rights are not trampled on, not bargained away or redefined under the guise of other legislation, no matter whether government is local, federal, or state and no matter which political party is in power. That takes understanding how all of government work, and once you know, you will be able to spot when governmental agencies and departments are not working as they should.
We have hundreds of governmental agencies and departments that function to serve we the people, and Congress is charged with oversight of them. The Department of Transportation function is to ensure our roads, bridges, and tunnels are safe to travel on. The Environmental Protection Agency is charged with making sure our air is safe to breathe and water, clean to drink. The Food and Drug Administration regulate the following industries: prescription and otc drugs, food, cosmetics, medical devices, animal and veterinary, tobacco products, radiation emitting products, vaccines, blood, and biologics.
Government is guided by principles of the U.S. Constitution and not ran like a corporation. There is a total of 535 members of the U.S. Congress that make all federal laws and by the time a bill reaches the President's desk for his or her signature or veto, at least 51 members of the Senate and 218 members of the House of Representatives had to agree to it. That is not how a corporation is managed.
Some citizens are confused by why it takes 60 votes in the U.S. Senate when a simple majority is 51 votes. They scratch their heads trying to figure out what the heck is a filibuster or nuclear option.
Many citizens believe problems in their community can only be solved by the U.S. Congress or by the President. They don’t understand that there is a hierarchy in government and state government have rights granted to them by the Constitution that cannot be infringed upon by the federal government.
To resolve some of the most pressing societal problems, it’s going to take a deeper understanding of our rights and duties as citizen, and how local government work.
"We know that if you study civics in high school you are more likely to be an informed voter," __ Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research, Tufts University.
I'm S. Maxx Mahaffey, founder of Civics Online Resource Community (C.O.R.C.). From 2006 to 2007 I substituted for another teacher and taught the first semester of eighth grade Civics. It was during the primary election for the 2008 presidential election. Since young people derive their political ideology from their parents, you can imagine that there were a lot of opinions about who would be the better president and which party would be better at governing.
We had many discussions about the Constitution, our rights as citizens and how those rights were granted, how government is organized, the role of the three branches of government, how political parties came about, and how a bill becomes law.
To give their critical thinking a workout, we discussed and debated the Bill of Rights (Amendment I thru Amendment X) and most of the other seventeen Amendments. One of the most memorable discussion was when they learned the meaning of the Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV), which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires law enforcement to have a search warrant supported by evidence of probable cause and sanctioned by a judge. We debated cases dealing with Amendment IV and how certain cases before the Court were thrown out because of the citizen’s Fourth Amendment right had been violated. Many of the boys welcomed that knowledge and saw it as power. However, they also learned the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, interpret laws, and the Court had decided that a school did not need a warrant to search a student's locker. That didn't go over very well, and a passionate debate ensued about how the court was wrong in their decision.
The eighth grade curriculum required students to perform 15 hours of Community Service. The intent was to instill in them a sense of civic responsibility by making a meaningful impact on the community and contributing to society. I was a stickler for making sure they earned those hours and came up with creative ways to show them their service mattered. One way was to have the honor students stay after school two days a week for one hour each day and tutor a student performing poorly in my class. That was a BIG hit, especially when the student scored better on an exam. Another service was to have them volunteer at a local nursing home to sit and read to a senior for one-hour. That turned out to be a lot of fun too. For students who loved pets, I put them in contact with the local Humane Society and suggested walking the dog for an elderly person in their neighborhood. They became aware of the many local and national organizations that serve the community and need volunteers.
We discussed the different political parties and how they were formed, meaning of the elephant representing the Republican Party and the donkey representing Democratic Party. I taught them about platforms and planks. I assigned them a project to create a political cartoon depicting an issue they agreed or disagreed with. Their minds were like a sponge, they soaked up the knowledge I presented, and when I thought they had a good grasp of how government work, we had an election.
We held a primary election and the students elected a candidate to represent each party, then a general election where the two candidates chose their platforms and planks, a campaign slogan, picked their team, created posters, and gave a speech to win over voters. I prepared the ballots and set a date for the election. After the ballots were counted and a winner announced, the losing candidate gave a concession speech, and the winning candidate gave an acceptance speech.
My last civic duty was to make sure they understood the magnitude of this moment in their lives. Toward that end, I first gave each one a pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution (provided by the school). I then created a “Pledge to Vote” card promising that when they turned 18, they would register to vote and exercise their duty as citizen to vote in every election. They were not asked to register for any specific party. The pledge was voluntary. Every student took a card.
In 2011, I was able to get in touch with 12 of the 27 students who took the card to see if they were registered to vote for the 2012 presidential election. I was very happy to learn that ALL 12 were either registered or would register after they turned 18 before the election. They sounded really excited and expressed how they were looking forward to voting for the first time. I didn't bring up the candidates, and they didn't offer who they were voting for.
It is my hope that C.O.R.C. imparts the same knowledge and inspires the same sense of duty that these young people experienced so that more citizens become involved in making sure government work as it should and holding government accountable when it is not working.
__S. Maxx Mahaffey, Founder