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Activity 3

Essential Question

Why will federalism continue to be a source of controversy in the United States?


The debate on federalism continues vigorously to this day and will certainly continue on into the future, because there are many questions related to the debate that are important to the citizenry. Many people are concerned about the cost of new federal programs and about whether decisions concerning these new programs should be made at the state or national level. Others are concerned that the government is assuming responsibilities that should be left to individuals. The main purpose of this activity is to help students decide what should be the proper balance between the powers of state and local government, on the one hand, and the federal government, on the other. This is a question our society will certainly deal with for a long time to come.

Additional Information

Strategy 1

Analyzing a Time Line and an Article to Gather Information for Decision Making

Provide students with copies of Timeline of Federalism and The New Federalism, which were developed by the Close-Up Foundation.

Have students examine the time line, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s and on the 1980s and 1990s and also have them read the article.

Establish the following questions for student research related to each of the following programs:

  • The New Deal
  • The Great Society
  • The Reagan Revolution
  • The Devolution Revolution
    • Who were its chief advocates?
    • What problems did it try to address?
    • What did it try to accomplish?
    • Who would benefit from it?
  • Suggest the following resources as additional sources of information:
    • PBS Videos
    • Social Studies School Service

Strategy 2


Students should use the current newspaper to find articles that deal with issues related to federalism. Select only articles that reflect a party position on the issue (Democratic or Republican)

Create a bulletin board to display these articles, putting the article under the proper heading of Republican or Democratic.

Conduct a class discussion of the bulletin board asking the students to decide:

  • What is the issue?
  • How is it related to federalism?

Check for Understanding

  • Decision-Making Question: Based on your research, where do you stand on the issue of federalism as it is exemplified by each of these programs? Support your response with evidence from the research material.
Updated January 31, 2023 4:45pm