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        9-12

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        Analyzing McCulloch v. Maryland

        In this lesson, students watch a video segment from the PBS series The Supreme Court about the landmark case Maryland v. McCulloch while considering the powers of the national government and state governments. John Marshall, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, played a key role in this case.  Students will learn how he helped lay the foundations of American government.

        Lesson Summary

        Overview

        In this lesson, students watch a video segment from the PBS series The Supreme Court about the landmark case Maryland v. McCulloch and consider the powers of the national government and state governments. Students take on the role of news reporters to analyze and present the case decision.

        This lesson is the second of two lessons that comprise a unit on balancing state and federal authority. For the first lesson, see Define and Classify the Powers Associated with Federalism Lesson Plan For extension activities to use with this unit, visit the Supreme Court website.

        Objectives

        • Analyze the Supreme Court case McCulloch v. Maryland
        • Collaborate to prepare a news story about the case

        Grade Level:

        9-12

        Suggested Time

        (1) 50 minute period

        Media Resources

        McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

        Materials

        McCulloch v. Maryland Questions

        Case Background: McCulloch v. Maryland

        McCulloch v. Maryland New Flash Guidelines

        Before The Lesson

        • Download McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
        • Prepare the necessary materials, including student handouts, which are found above. If possible, copy each of the handouts on to a different color of paper. This will help you and your students keep track of which handout they should be working with at a given time.
        • Look at the Case Background: McCulloch v. Maryland, especially the part that gives students the main arguments on each side of the case. Decide if your students have the skills and/or experience to come up with these arguments on their own without these prompts. If so, you may not want to copy that part of the handout for them. Deleting this part of the handout would increase critical thinking and would also likely add time to the lesson.
        • If you prefer to predetermine student groups and partner sets for your class, do so.
        • Consider inviting a local, state, and/or national legislator to help you teach this lesson. 

        The Lesson

        Part I: Lesson

        1. Ask students if they have ever experienced a conflict or struggle with their friends or classmates over making a decision.  Take student responses and ask them to describe their experiences. Explain that just as they might have had a clash over a decision with their classmates, the national government and the states have experienced a similar power struggle.

        2. Tell students they are going to watch a video segment that illustrates the Supreme Court's first major case that attempted to help resolve a conflict between the national government and the state of Maryland. Distribute the McCulloch v. Maryland Questions. Prior to playing the video segment, review the questions students should focus on while watching the clip:

        • Who were the major players in the case?
        • What was at the root of the conflict?
        • What did the Court decide in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland?
        • What reasons did the Court give for its decision?

         3. Play McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)  You may choose to play the clip multiple times for student understanding.

         4. Ask students to discuss the following questions. The answers below are provided as a guide:

          • Who were the major players in the case?

             

            Answer: The state of Maryland and the federal government represented by National Bank manager James McCulloch.

         

          • What was at the root of the conflict?

             

            Answer: The state of Maryland believed that the federal government did not have the constitutional power to establish a national bank. In response, the state passed a law that would tax the national bank and hinder its profitability. James McCulloch refused to pay the tax in defense of the federal government's right to develop the bank.

         

        • What did the Court decide in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland? What reasons did the Court give for its decision?

           

          Answer: The Court ruled in favor of the federal government. Applying the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution, the federal government had the power to create the bank in order to regulate and encourage interstate commerce. In addition, the state could not tax a "national entity."

        Part II: Culminating Activity

        1. Assign students to work in groups of three to five and give each group several sheets of flip-chart paper and markers.

        2. Distribute the Case Background: McCulloch v. Maryland and the McCulloch v. Maryland New Flash Guidelines and review the directions for the activity with the class.

        3. When students have completed their work, a representative from each group presents its news story. Ask students to compare and contrast the news stories they have heard, saw, or read. If necessary, clarify any points of fact that students were confused about.

        4. For homework (or in class if time permits), ask students to respond to the following in an essay:

        • Define "federalism."
        • Explain how the Supreme Court's decision in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland helped to further refine the balance of power under federalism.
        • Do you agree or disagree with the Court’s decision in McCulloch v. Maryland? Explain your answer.

         

         

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