Subject Material

Checks and Balances – Text in Brief

Published: 08.02.2011, Updated: 04.03.2017
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Pre-reading:  Discuss the following in small groups.

  • Is the President of the US the most powerful man in the world?
  • Is the President of the US the most powerful man in the US?
  • Does the word powerful mean decision-maker?

The President Leads

USA - Checks and Balances

The president is elected by the people as a leader of their country. He is responsible for the country and therefore has a powerful position. Since America is a super power, his position carries a great deal of influence around the world. But does he "call all the shots" and make all the decisions? If he alone had that power, the USA would no longer be called a democracy.


Comprehension

1. What does it mean to be a "super power"?
2. What does democracy mean?
3. What other types of government are there in the world other than democracy?

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Check and Balance System of Government

The US government is designed so that decisions that get made get checked. It is divided into three 'branches': the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. Each branch has its own tasks. By dividing the power in three, no single branch can do anything without the approval or 'check' of at least one of the other two. This system is called "check and balance". This system provides citizens with the comfort that actions and decisions - even declaring war - will be discussed, debated and properly approved by the elected officials.


Comprehension

1. Name the three branches of government?
2. What does "check and balance" mean?

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A Triangular-Shaped System

The three branches form a triangle. They are connected but have their separate corners. The Executive Branch includes the President and his Cabinet. Their main role is administrative. The Legislative Branch is the Congress which is made up of elected Senators and Representatives and their main function is to make laws. The Judicial Branch is the Supreme Court and District Courts. They have the responsibility of making sure that decisions and laws are constitutional.

Comprehension

1. Which branch makes the laws?
2. Which branch does the President belong to?
3. What do the words "constitutional" and "unconstitutional" mean?

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Tasks and Activities

Reading Diagrams

Study the 3 diagrams below and then try the interactive tasks in the link collection.

 


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USA Power Sharing 1
 

 

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USA Power Sharing 2
 

 

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USA Power Sharing 3
 

Discussion

What reasons did the Founding Fathers of the Constitution have in creating three branches
of government?

 

 

Writing

Write one paragraph in which you explain the term "checks and balances".

 

Extra

 

In the link collection you will find a video clip, "A Promise of Freedom" produced by the
US Government, which focuses on the history and founding of the US nation. It presents the important rights and responsibilities of US citizenship.

 

 

This text is based on Checks and Balances .

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