In honor of Independence Day of the United States
A family-friendly way to teach how a republic works!
You will need the following “ingredients”:
- Dried beans (such as pinto or kidney beans; popcorn will work, too!)
- Golf balls (or ping-pong balls, or cotton balls)
- Two large cups; one labeled “Democracy” and the other labeled “Representatives”
- A sign or piece of paper that says “= A Republic!”
In the United States of America, when we say the Pledge of Allegiance, we say, "...and to the Republic for which it stands..." America has a form of government called a Republic. What is a "Republic"?
The Recipe for a Republic:
1 c. Democracy + 1 c. Representation = A Republic
1) Fill the Democracy cup with beans. The beans represent "the people" = us! "We the People" govern ourselves by exercising our "voice" through the voting process.
Points you can explain:
- Democracy: Demos = the people; Kratia = rule or govern (Greek words).
- “We the people” are sovereign or have the absolute power to rule; the people self-govern by choosing the leaders and laws they want through the democratic process of exercising their voice and vote. (In a monarchy, for example, the king is sovereign; the king governs the people by his rules/laws. Typically, the people do not have a voice/vote.)
- Many people came to America because they wanted to experience a republican form of government where they could have the freedom to choose their leaders and laws.
2) Fill the Representation cup with as many golf balls (or ping pong balls, or cotton balls) as will fit. Note that there are less golf balls in the cup than beans. That's okay because the golf balls are representatives of "the people" (or the beans) in the first cup!
Points you can explain:
- The word represent means “to act or speak for”.
A representative is someone who acts or speaks for others.
- Because America is so big, "we the people" (the beans) can't possibly research and understand every local, state, and national issue in order to make an informed vote. So… we elect a few people (the golf balls) we trust to be our representatives and to research and vote on local, state, and national issues on our behalf!
- To effectively represent someone, two-way communication must happen:
a) We must communicate our desires, questions, concerns, ideas and suggestions with our elected representatives. We must do our part to keep ourselves informed on basic local, state, and national issues. This is our responsibility. How can we effectively do this?
(Some ideas: Who represents you? A search on the internet will provide you with websites and contact info regarding your representatives. The internet, local newspaper, and other news sources such as TV and radio provide info on current events. Dedicate a few minutes each day to listen and/or read! Attend a local school board, county, or city meeting once a month or more as time permits. When your community has a town-hall meeting, attend and introduce yourself to your elected representative. Offer feedback! Above all, make sure you vote for someone who will best represent you.)
b) Our elected representatives must communicate their desires, questions, concerns, ideas and solutions with us and receive our feedback. They must do their part to study and research the issues and attend the meetings pertaining to their elected stewardship. This is their responsibility. How can they effectively do this?
(Some ideas: If you are an elected representative, make sure your contact information is available on the internet and in some hard copy form – a brochure or pamphlet – in your office. Get to know your constituents by inviting them to a town-hall meeting where you can meet them and receive their feedback. Encourage them to call or email you when they have questions, concerns, or suggestions. Send out a monthly newsletter via email briefly summarizing current issues on which you are working and that they need to know about. Invite their feedback!)
3) Show the formula for a Republic again: 1 c. Democracy + 1 c. Representation = A Republic
- 1 c. Democracy means “we the people self-govern”; we choose the laws and leaders by which we desire to be governed through the democratic process of informed voting.
- 1 c. Representation means we choose leaders who act in our behalf and speak for us in local, state and national government
4) Take away the Democracy cup. If we left out the ingredient of Democracy, what could happen to our Republic?
(Example: Could our leaders truly represent us if we do not get to vote for them or exercise our voice to communicate with them? Could this impact our freedom? If so, how?)
5) Put back the Democracy cup and take away the Representation cup. If we left out the ingredient of Representation, what could happen to our Republic?
(Example: What would it be like if the majority of the people – for example, 51% – did not like your cultural or religious beliefs, your race, or your socio economic status and there was no one to speak for you – the minority – and act in your behalf? Could a pure democracy impact your freedom? If so, how?)
Just as leaving out an ingredient in a recipe could result in something that we may not want to eat, leaving out or weakening one of the two important ingredients of our Republic could result in a different form of government that we may not want to have. Our constitutional republic was designed to safeguard everyone’s life, liberty, and ability to pursue happiness. Therefore, isn’t our republic worth preserving?!?