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Civics Project


Rationale: Public Interest Institute believes that Iowa youth need a course in the rights and duties of citizens, and hopes that the Iowa Civics Project will contribute to the development of civic pride and responsibility in our youth.

Goals: The students will gain an understanding of the role of government in Iowa by:

  • Understanding the constitutional foundation and structure of government in Iowa.
  • Recognizing the powers and processes of each of the branches of state government.
  • Recognizing the role of county, city, and school governments; and how they set policy.
  • Identifying the major services provided by state and local governments.
  • Identifying the major sources of revenue for state and local governments.
  • Understanding the role of the political process in electing public officials at each level of government.
  • Demonstrating the knowledge, skills, and leadership qualities necessary to become effective Iowa citizens.
  • Understanding and recognizing that freedoms are accompanied by responsibilities and that citizens in a free society are obliged to exercise their freedoms with respect to the freedoms of other.

Overview:  The Iowa Civics Project textbook, IOWA GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS, consists of thirteen separate lessons, each designed to focus on one aspect of government in Iowa.  Each chapter includes a list of Useful Websites, a Vocabulary list, a Review Quiz, and Suggestions for Additional Activities.


Chapter 1 — Iowa's Founding

This chapter details the history of our state, from the first European claims on the mainland of North America to Iowa’s admission to the Union as the 29th state, and the development of the Constitution of the State of Iowa.  This chapter also gives an overview of state, county, and city government and the checks and balances established to help guard against government not serving “the interests of the customer.”

Chapter 2 — The Iowa Legislative Branch

Chapter Two begins with a section on the Constitutional Authority granted to the Legislative Branch of the Iowa government.  Students will learn about the makeup of the members of the Legislature, how an idea evolves into a state law, and the role staff plays in that process. 

Chapter 3 — The Iowa Executive Branch

Chapter Three begins with a description of the Constitutional Authority granted to the Iowa Executive Branch.  This chapter details the powers granted to the Governor, how candidates for Governor are selected, and describes the other executive branch officers and agencies. 

Chapter 4 — The Iowa Judicial Branch

This chapter also begins with a section on the Constitutional Authority granted to a branch of the Iowa Government, in this case the Judicial Branch.  The Iowa Judicial Branch describes the state’s court system and the aspects of criminal and civil cases.

Chapter 5 — Authorities, Boards, Commissions, Councils, and Districts

Chapter Five describes the Authorities, Boards, Commissions, Councils, and Districts that have been created in Iowa.  While these various groups enable citizens to provide input and expertise into state public policy decisions, they also allow unelected individuals, who are not directly accountable to voters, to make rules regulating the activities of the citizens of the state.

Chapter 6 — Local Governments

Local Governments, the topic of Chapter Six, include counties, cities and towns, and townships.  This chapter describes the different forms and officers of city and county governments, the services provided by local governments, and how those services are funded.  Local governments do provide more personalized attention than state or national governments.  However, in modern times, combining some cities and/or counties would be more efficient, although this is unlikely to occur under the current system.

Chapter 7 — Education

Education, the subject of Chapter Seven, is likely to be of particular interest to teachers and students in government classes, as well as to all Iowans, because we “spend more on education each year than on all the other items funded by government combined.”  In this chapter, students will learn about local school boards, the State Board of Education, and the Board of Regents that govern the different levels of education in the state.  Private K-12 schools, private colleges, and homeschooling are also included in this chapter.

Chapter 8 — Political Parties

Chapter Eight, as well as the following two chapters, address groups that, while not directly authorized or established in the U.S. or State Constitutions, have become an integral part of political life in Iowa.  This chapter outlines the general functions, organizations, and activities of political parties, and provides specific information on the Democrat, Republican, and minor parties that operate in the state. 

Chapter 9 — Interest Groups

The positive and negative features of Interest Groups are highlighted, along with a discussion of the democratic paradox — the problem of the “organized minority taking advantage of the unorganized majority.”  This chapter also features a discussion of Political Action Committees.

Chapter 10 — Parliamentary Procedure

Parliamentary procedure is the application of the two guiding principles of democracy to groups, associations, organizations, and societies smaller than our nation or state: majority rule and minority rights.

Chapter 11 — The Mass Media

Today, the mass media include traditional formats such as newspapers and television and radio programs, as well as newer formats such as Internet websites and web logs or “blogs.”  The mass media play a role in politics and government by keeping citizens informed, serving as a “watchdog” on politicians and officials, and assisting in the process of political socialization.  However, one must be aware of the potential for bias in their presentation.

Chapter 12 — Voting and Elections

Chapter Twelve describes the process and procedures of voting and elections, as well as concepts that may impact this process, such as gerrymandering and incumbency.  This chapter also includes a unique proposal, “Racheter’s Renewal and Removal Reform,” to address the problem of individuals forgetting to re-register when they move.

Chapter 13 — Citizenship

Chapter Thirteen brings together all of the previous chapters, and shares with students the importance of being informed about and participating in government and politics.  Being a citizen of America and of Iowa is a privilege; we are guaranteed certain rights, but we must fulfill our responsibilities as citizens if we are to keep them.


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