Majority Rules, But (The)

9, 10, 11, 12
For the American system of government to work, the majority has the power to rule and the responsibility not to trample the rights of the minority. The minority must have the right to become the majority and have its voice heard. People often blame the government without thinking that other sectors of the economy can and do play a role.
Lesson Rating 
PrintOne to Two Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods
The learner will:
  • explain the meaning of majority rule and minority rights.
  • defend the idea that majority rule and minority rights are essential principles of American government.
  • illustrate the relationship between the five principles of American government.
  • Props to look like a reporter
  • Microphone or video camera
  • Newsprint
  • Two different colored pencils for each student
  • Principles of American Government puzzle box top (see note in unit overview)
  • Bennett, Barrie. Cooperative Learning: Where Heart Meets Mind. Toronto: Educational Connections, 1991. ISBN: 0-969538804.

  • Bahmueller, Charles. Civitas: A Framework for Civic Education. Calabasas: Center for Civic Education, 1991. ISBN: 0-89818-124-0.

  • National Standards for Civics and Government. Calabasas: Center for Civic Education, 1994. ISBN: 0-89818-155-0.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Become the man in the window and yell, "I'm mad…and I'm not going to take it anymore," several times. Have the students join in until everyone is participating. Get really loud. Ask the students to become the person in the window. Tell them that they are going to be interviewed by a reporter called to the scene and allowed to enter the apartment.
  2. Reporter (teacher), holding a microphone, accompanied by a camera person: Ask a student (the person in the window) a leading question: "We understand from your neighbors that you think the government is to blame for your situation." Ask follow-up and leading questions of other students to guide them to voice the position that:
  3. the government was not listening;
  4. what the government did do was not enough;
  5. the elected representatives only seem to care about getting re-elected.
  6. Step out of your role as the reporter and explain that in a democratic republic we are always wrestling with the issue of who has the power; to what end the power should be used; who decides; and how those in power can be limited and influenced. If we, the people are not able to control and influence those in power, we will lose our freedom, feel powerless and end up yelling from windows - or worse.
  7. Review with students the first three principles of American government (popular sovereignty, representative government and limited government) referring to the bulletin board. And tell students that the two remaining pieces are "majority rule" and "minority rights." Today they will learn the meaning of majority rule and minority rights.
  8. Divide the class into groups of four and do a "graffiti board" activity. Use majority rule and minority rights as the focus. Record ideas in one color (same for all students) for majority rule and another color for minority rights. Have each group look for similarities and differences from the ideas they generated. What conclusions or generalizations can they reach? Ask each group to report back to the whole class.
  9. As a whole group, do the W of K-W-L for majority rule and minority rights.
  10. Define majority rule and minority rights and clarify misunderstandings that have been revealed. Point out that it is necessary for both the government and ordinary citizens to protect minority rights.
  11. Construct a concept map of the five principles of democracy (popular sovereignty, representative government, limited government, majority rule and minority rights).
  12. Closure - have students complete a journal entry to answer the following questions:
    • Why does the majority rule?
    • Who says so?
    • What's the proof?
    • What are the rights of the minority?
    • Why should the minority have rights?
    • Who protects the rights of the minority?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.