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Lesson 2

The Power of Our Country

 

Lesson Overview:

This lesson focuses on our country's leadership in the world. In Part 1, the students will learn about the U.S. economy and other economies as they compare them in various activities. They'll also do a crossword about supply and demand. In Part 2, they'll discover facts about U.S. foreign policy, read an account of its impact, and review vocabulary by doing a word find. In Part 3, they'll better understand the humanitarian efforts of the U.S. and will inform others through a bulletin board.

 

Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards

 

Learning Objectives:

The students will:

  • Identify the relationship between government and economy.
  • Describe the advantages of a market economy.
  • Recognize the United States has a mixed economy.
  • Name the key players and steps in foreign policy.
  • Explain how our foreign policy affects global decision-making.
  • Tell the ways our country contributes to the welfare of other nations.

 

Part 1: Our Economy

Reproducible: World Economies

The students will complete the reproducible World Economies as they discuss the following section and the next, selecting the correct term for each of the descriptions. The answers are found here.

The United States' type of government, a constitutional democracy, guarantees freedom for all citizens. This freedom is necessary for a market economy. Sellers can own their property and equipment. They can set their own prices for what they make or provide. They can advertise as much or as little as they want. Because of their freedom, they are motivated to use their time, talent and money and work hard.

A market economy depends on the law of supply and demand. If an item or service is very popular, it may be in short supply. Buyers will have to compete with each other, and sellers can charge more. Items or services which are not in demand will have lower prices. This system ensures citizens are able to buy what they need and want, and sellers receive a fair price. The standard of living - the level of goods, services and luxuries citizens can afford - is high in countries with market economies.

Compare a market economy to a command economy. In a command economy, the government controls all products that are made and services that are provided. Citizens have no say in what they make, how they make them or how many they make, so they have little motivation to work hard or well. Production is often low in a command economy. Link here for the Level 3 Resources section for more information and activities about command economies.

 

MP3: The Economic Heart

The song lyrics may be reproduced.  After listening to the song, discuss the song using the following questions:

  • "Supply and demand ... you've got choices at the store ..." How does the law of supply and demand create choices? (If an item is popular, other people or companies will want to sell it, too, so they can make money. Since copyrights forbid that, the competition will have to create their own products, which offers choices to buyers, or consumers.)
  • "But if you don't like what's sold, the demand for it will end ..." Can the group think of any items (toys, electronic gadgets, etc.) that were extremely popular for a period of time and in great demand? (Possible answers: Beanie Babies or Pokémon cards.) What were prices like? When the fads died, what happened to the prices? Have they had a personal experience with the concept of supply and demand?
  • "Because the price you pay for things shows how cool you think they are" Compare the "cool factor" of certain stores. How do their prices compare with less-cool businesses? At which type of store do the students shop?

 

Reproducible: The U.S. Has a Mixed Economy

As the students discuss the following information, they'll complete the reproducible.  The answers are here.

 

Discuss:

The U.S. system has a mixed economy. Americans have the freedom to produce, sell and buy goods, and the government - federal, state and local - regulates and provides services to businesses. For example, it:

  • Processes and delivers mail.
  • Maintains roads.
  • Breaks up monopolies - businesses that have total control of a product or service - so prices stay fair and other companies have an opportunity to compete.
  • Helps industries "in trouble" by reducing taxes, funding programs, even loaning money.
  • Sets safety standards for products and workplaces.
  • Decides the minimum amount businesses can pay their workers.
  • Provides pensions and health insurance for retired workers, and living allowances for the poor, the disabled and the unemployed.

The government also helps battle economic problems like unemployment and high prices by:

  • Cutting taxes so taxpayers spend more. When spending goes up, more workers are needed to provide additional goods and services, and unemployment goes down.
  • Training workers and helping them find better jobs. People who have good, steady jobs buy more goods and services. More workers are then needed to produce them.
  • Providing money to those who want to attend college. Those who go to college earn more than those who don't, and they can buy more goods and services.
  • Raising the interest rate on borrowing money. Citizens borrow money in order to buy expensive items like cars and houses. If the interest rate is too high, they can't afford to borrow. If fewer people are able to buy these goods, the prices will drop.

 

Reproducible: Supply and Demand Crossword

Information regarding a market economy is found in the puzzle.  Answers are here.

 

Part 2: Our Influence

Reproducible: Our Foreign Policy

As students discuss this section, they can complete the reproducible, Our Foreign Policy.  Answers are here. 

A nation's foreign policy is its plan for interacting with other nations. The United States' foreign policy makes a big impact on the world. It protects our country, our neighbors, our allies and other friendly nations, and it preserves our freedom. It helps us encourage other countries to adopt democracy. And it develops and maintains our relationships with other countries so we can address global problems like terrorism, resolve issues and trade freely.

The United States' first diplomat was Benjamin Franklin, who went to France during the Revolutionary War to get support for American independence. He was successful and became enormously popular with the French.

The key foreign policymakers are:

  • The president.  He has the most important role in foreign policy because he represents the United States to the world. He speaks directly to the representatives of other countries on issues involving the United States and sometimes serves as a mediator, promoting peace between other countries. He appoints ambassadors and other diplomats, the official representatives of the U.S. to other countries.
  • Congress. Congress has Constitutional power to "check" the president as foreign policymaker. Only Congress can declare war, and it must approve by a 2/3 vote the treaties the president makes, the financial aid he promises and the officials he appoints.

The president and Congress are persuaded by other people. Cabinet members, staff and advisors, ambassadors, the president's family members, interest groups like businesses, veterans and farmers, the media, and ordinary citizens can all play a role in making foreign policy. 

How does the United States try to influence other countries? It's an organized, step-by-step process:

  • Diplomacy. The United States develops or tries to improve a relationship with another country so important issues can be discussed. It might promise foreign aid in a disaster, for instance, as other issues are discussed.
  • Sanctions. If diplomacy fails, the United States might penalize a country with sanctions. These are disciplinary actions.
  • Military force. If diplomacy and sanctions don't work, the U.S. may have to take more serious steps, such as sending troops to protect a country's citizens.

 

Reproducible: The United States Battles Apartheid

For a greater understanding of the effects of U.S. foreign policy, have the students read the handout. Discussion questions:

  • How did apartheid limit the South African black population?
  • What was the U.S.'s original foreign policy concerning South Africa? Why was it changed over time?
  • Did apartheid change because of the actions of the United States? How?

 

Reproducible: Foreign Policy Hidden Message

After finding and circling the vocabulary words, the students will write the remaining letters in the blanks below the puzzle to reveal the hidden message. The answers to the puzzle and the hidden message can be found here.

 

Part 3: Our Outreach

Reproducible: The United States Impacts the World

Many areas of the world face very difficult problems. The majority of the world's workers live on $2 or less a day, and many children die before their fifth birthday. The United States contributes billions of dollars each year to improve the lives of those who live in other countries, more than any other nation in the world by far. It loans money and provides grants to very poor countries, which don't need to be repaid. It also offers training and other assistance.

Make copies of the reproducible. Invite the students to pick a bulleted item, research it, and then share the additional information with the group.

 

Activity: Bringing Global Issues Home

Decorate a bulletin board with a world map and other items and invite the students to put together a group collage on one or more global problems like famine, disease, pollution, etc., and how Americans can address them. They can either draw pictures or cut out magazine photos. Cut out words and phrases from magazines and newspapers about these issues and add them to the board.

The federal agency USAID was created in 1961 to help countries affected by poverty, disasters and other problems. The students can find out more about USAID's efforts on its website. Stories are arranged by region and topic.