As the political climate in the United States becomes more divided, it has never been more important to understand how the levels of government work and how they affect you on a daily basis.
Steven Foxworth — dedicated social studies educator with a Master of Education focused on Educational Leadership and Administration from Concordia University-Portland — states that the levels of the American government are essential to teach our future leaders. Thankfully, he took the time to elaborate on this statement, sharing his insights on the American government.
The constitution of the United States divides the federal government into three branches to ensure a central government in which no one individual or group gains too much control. Steven Foxworth explains that the enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu coined the phrase “trias politica”, or separation of powers, in his 18th century work “Spirit of the Laws”. His concept of a government divided into legislative, executive and judicial branches acting independently of each other inspired the framework for the U.S. Constitution.
- Judicial Branch
Steven Foxworth explains that the judicial branch of government is composed of federal judges and courts, which interprets the meaning of laws enacted by Congress, applies law to individual cases, and decide if laws violate the Constitution. It is made up of the Supreme Court of the United States (nine members), with the highest ranking being the Chief Justice of the United States. The justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate. There is no fixed term for justices, as they serve until their death, retirement, or removal in exceptional circumstances.
2. Legislative Branch
The legislative branch drafts proposed laws, confirms or rejects presidential nominations for heads of federal agencies, federal judges, and the Supreme Court, and has the power to declare war. This legislative power is divided further into the two chambers, or houses, of Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of congress are elected by the people of the United States. While each state gets the same number of senators (two) to represent it, the number of representatives for each state is based on the state’s population. In order to pass an act of legislation, both houses must pass the same version of a bill by majority vote, it then goes to the President, who can either sign it into law or reject it using the veto power assigned to the Constitution.
3. The Executive Branch
The executive branch of the federal government ensures that the laws of the United States are obeyed. In carrying out this duty, the President of the United States is assisted by the Vice President, department heads and the heads of several independent agencies. Unlike members of congress, the president and vice president are not elected directly by the people every four years, but through the electoral college system. People vote to select a slate of electors, and each elector pledges to cast his or her vote for the candidate who gets the most votes from the people they represent.
Steven Foxworth believes that there has never been a more important time to understand the branches of government in the United States and how they work together to produce the laws and legislation that dictate many of the regulations regarding our daily lives. He states that the future leaders need to have a deeper understanding of government bodies and the exposure to political studies must take place earlier in a student’s educational journey.