Official Language

AP US Government and Politics

How many official languages are there in the U.S.?

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this map?

  3. If the average American was asked to name the official language of the U.S. of A, how do you think they would answer?

  4. Why do you think the U.S. doesn't have an official language?

  5. What is one consequence of the U.S. not having an official language?

  6. What do you think are the three most commonly spoken languages in the U.S.?*

  7. What does the map of non-English usage in the United states (below*) indicate is the most and the least all-English region of the United States?

  8. Explain your opinion on the fact that the US has no official language?

  9. Let's say that the U.S. wanted to declare an official language. How would we go about doing that?

  10. What part of the government is responsible for declaring national languages?

  11. List one cost of the U.S. not having an official language and list one benefit of the U.S. not having an official language:

  12. Let's zoom out now to the entire world. What is the big story this map tells?

  13. Relative to the rest of the world, how normal is it that the U.S. has no official language?

  14. If you had to choose between having 0 official languages like Australia, or having 10 or more official languages like India, which do you think would lead to more stability?

  15. Although, English is not the official language of the U.S., there are obviously costs to not speaking English in the U.S. What would you say is the biggest cost of being a non-English speaker in the U.S.?

  16. Describe the liberal and conservative position on English being the official language of the US:

  17. How do you think this issue of language impacted the 2016 election?

  18. If you were King (POTUS, Congress, and SCOTUS) for a day Explain whether you would make English the official language of the US.

  19. If we did make English the official language of the U.S., what concrete changes would occur to our daily lives?

  20. If Pig Latin became the official language of the U.S. I would not be happy. I wouldn't be thrilled if any of the following languages became our official language either: Swampy Cree, Crimean Tartar, or Scottish Gaelic. Here is a list of some of the world's languages. List the worst possible official language of the U.S. in the comments section below.

Learning Extension

Read this ACLU backgrounder on English as the official language of the US.

Action Extension

Share your position on America having an official language on social media. Be sure to inform your followers about the (lack of an) official language of the U.S.

Visual Extension*

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Electoral Votes

How many electoral votes per person does your state have?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this information?

  3. What questions do you have about this map?

  4. What is the big take home message of this map?

  5. Describe the mechanism by which the electoral vote power of some states is greater than others:

  6. Describe the history by which the electoral vote power of some states is greater than others:

  7. What is a consequence of the inequality in electoral college voting power?

  8. Central to the concept of democracy is the idea that all people are politically equal. Some would claim that in a truly democratic country, every person in every state would have the same electoral votes per person (in other words, the color of each state on the map would be the same). Respond to this claim.

  9. Were it the case that every state in the map above was the same color (equal electoral votes per person) who would have won the 2016 Presidential election?

  10. Describe one way our country would be different today had Trump not become president.

  11. The average electoral vote represents 436,000 people, but that number rises and falls per state depending on that state’s population over 18 years of age. Calculate the exact number of people an electoral vote represents in your state.

  12. How does your state compare to others in terms of electoral college power?

  13. How does the map of electoral vote power (above) relate to the map of the percentage of state residents who are white (below)?

  14. Should your power to vote for president be impacted by what state you happen to live in?

  15. If I wanted to increase my presidential electoral power, what state would I most want to move from and what state would I most want to move to?

  16. Overall, Is this map good news or bad news for the U.S.?

  17. If you thought that it was best to get rid of the electoral college, what would be one step towards achieving this goal?

  18. Why hasn't the U.S. abolished the electoral college?

  19. How does this map affect strategy in presidential elections?

  20. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?


Learning Extension

Read about the fact that the electoral college was created to empower slave states.


Action Extension

The National Popular Vote Plan is a proposal to undo the unequal power of the electoral college. Read about the plan and contact your state legislator to share your opinion of the plan.


Visual Extension

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Democracy Minus

What percent of Americans say that democracy is working very well in the U.S. today?

  1. How accurate was your splendid prediction?

  2. What story does this data tell about how Americans feel about democracy?

  3. Why do you think Americans feel that way about democracy?

  4. What is a consequence of this?

  5. How different are Democratic and Republican views of American democracy?

  6. Why do you think that is?

  7. I am wondering if the political party of the president has an impact on how partisans feel about democracy at that time. How different do you think Democratic and Republican views on American democracy were during the Obama presidency?

  8. Explain how well you think democracy is working in the U.S.

  9. Describe one aspect of American politics which leads you to that conclusion.

  10. What percent of Americans think that significant changes are needed in the fundamental design and structure of American government?

  11. The Declaration of Independence asserts that “men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Does the fact that 61% of Americans believe the government needs fundamental and structural changes mean that the government has lost the consent of the governed and, if so, does that give us the right to alter or abolish our government?

  12. The Declaration of Independence listed the specific gripes the colonists had against the stupid British King. More than two thirds of Democrats think significant changes need to be made in the fundamental design and structure of American government. Describe some specific gripes and changes you think the typical Democrat would advocate today.

  13. Thinking about the fundamental design and structure of American government explain whether you believe that the significant changes are needed?

  14. If so, list three changes to the fundamental design and structure of American government that you would support.

  15. Do you believe that significant changes to the fundamental design and structure of American government are likely to occur?

  16. Describe the method by which Americans could undertake significant changes to the fundamental design and structure of American government.

  17. Was the Constitutional Convention that the Framers convened in Philadelphia in 1787 legal under the Articles of Confederation?

Learning Extension

Read the Pew Report Democracy and government, the U.S. political system, elected officials and governmental institutions

Action Extension

Even if you think that Democracy is working in general, you still must have at least one gripe with American democracy. Write a 28th Amendment describing a way to fix one problem with American democracy.

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Midterm Election Spending

How much money was spent on the 2018 midterm elections?


Total cost of U.S. midterm elections from 1998 to 2018 by party (in million U.S. dollars)

Statistic: Total cost of U.S. midterm elections from 1998 to 2018, by party (in million U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista
  1. How accurate was your absolutely amazing prediction?

  2. Describe one trend you see in the data.

  3. What is the main cause of that trend?

  4. What is one consequence of this trend for American politics?

  5. Explain whether this chart is good or bad news.

  6. Based on changes over the past ten years, what amount do you predict will be spent on the 2022 midterm elections?

  7. And how much will be spent on the 2038 midterms?

  8. How does midterm election spending compare to presidential election year spending?

  9. What explains that difference?

  10. Claim: the increase in campaign spending is a sign of the good health of American democracy. Use your reading of the chart and your knowledge of American politics to respond to this claim.

  11. Explain why, relative to the major two parties, Third Parties/Minor Parties spend so little on elections?

  12. Based on this chart and your knowledge of American politics, explain why there are only 3 minor party members in the U.S. Congress.

  13. What question do you have about this chart?

  14. Which party outspent the other in 2018?

  15. Did they get a good return on their investment?

  16. Where is most of this campaign spending money coming from?

  17. Where is most of this campaign money going?

  18. How does the spending illustrated in the chart impact the power of political parties?

  19. Explain how the ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission impacted the spending in the chart? (Pro Tip: this is one of the 15 landmark SCOTUS cases that you should definitely know! You can learn a whole lot more about this case right here!)

  20. Describe the connection between election spending and winning. (see visual below)

Visual Extension

Learning Extension

Check out this fantabulous article on money and elections from Five Thirty Eight.

Action Extension

Check out the data from Open Secrets on the 2018 congressional elections and see how much your very own beloved U.S. representative spent. Share the data in class or online.

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Money in the Tank

Do most Americans think that the amount of money the U.S. spends on defense is too much, too little, or just about right?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Identify one trend from the chart.

  3. Explain the cause of that trend.

  4. What is one consequence of that trend?

  5. If most Americans believe that we spend too much money on Defense, why did Donald Trump just request a nearly 5% increase in U.S. defense spending?

  6. How much money did Donald Trump request for the 2019 defense budget?*

  7. How do you think that compares to what the average American thinks the U.S. spends on the military?

  8. How much do you think partisanship impacts opinion about defense spending? (see below)

  9. Explain your opinion about the appropriate level of American defense spending.

  10. Describe the parts of the government that are involved in setting defense spending budgets.

  11. What does Article II of the U.S. Constitution say about the president’s military role?

  12. What does Article I of the U.S. Constitution say about the role of the Congress in defense?

  13. Explain whether a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist would be more likely to support a strong federal military.

  14. Explain what position the following ideologies would most likely take regarding the 2019 military budget proposal:

  • Socialist

  • Liberal

  • Conservative

  • Libertarian

*$727 billion

Visual Extension

Learning Extension

Read the Gallup report on Americans’ views on defense spending.

Action Extension

Contact your member of congress and let them know what you think about our nation’s current level of defense spending?

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