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March 30, 2020

Constitutions and Constitutionalism

This Pathway engages participants in examining the ideal of constitutionalism, the general principle that the authority of government derives from the people and is limited by law, and the actual practices of constitutional governments. It contemplates how and why the U.S. Constitution has changed over time and has been interpreted by the federal courts and amended through constitutionally established procedures. Participants also analyze the institutions and political/legal processes critical to sustaining American civil society under the rule of law.

Concepts and Topics

  • government under law
  • idea of written constitution
  • judicial review
  • limited government
  • ways to interpret the Constitution: living Constitution and original understanding
  • drafting and ratifying the U.S. Constitution
  • amending/changing the U.S. Constitution
  • comparing U.S. to other national constitutions
  • comparing U.S. to state constitutions
  • relationship of constitutionalism to democracy: balance of majority rule and minority rights

Suggested Cases

Marbury v. Madison, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Boumediene v. Bush, Heller v. District of Columbia,
Roper v. Simmons