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Civics Literacy Study & Resource Guide

Supplemental Resource Guide for the Civics Literacy Proficiency Program

Civic Life, Politics, and Government


Before jumping into the foundations and roles of American democracy, it may be useful to make sure you know the following definitions: 

Private Life: Relates to a citizen's right to privacy and the pursuit of private and personal interests. 

Civic Life: The public life of the citizen concerned with the affairs of the community and nation. 

Limited Government: The government has only the powers granted to it in the Constitution, and it can only conduct actions permitted by the Constitution. In other words, there are established and respected restraints on government power. 

Rule of Law: An essential component of limited government. The central notion of a rule of law is that society is governed according to widely known and accepted rules followed not only by the governed but also by those in authority.

Checks and Balances: The Constitutionally granted power for one branch of government to block action by an equal branch of government. The Constitution specifies instances in which one of the three branches can stop action by another. Historical precedents have established others.

Separation of Powers: The Constitution keeps the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) separate. The powers and responsibilities of each is described in a separate Article. Separation makes each Branch the equal of the others.

Source: Reviewing the Constitution's Big Ideas with Primary Sources (National Archives& the Center for Civic Education 

eReference Sources

Reference Works and Encyclopedias

Reference works and encyclopedias are a good starting point to get introduced to broad and complex concepts about political science, government, and law. These resources may provide useful definitions, context, and background on topics that you will continue to pursue throughout the Civic Literacy Proficiency Program.