Photo by Vince Alongi
My students, as part of their Create A Civilization project, had to select a type of government and explain its consequences. I was very excited to find this list of the different types of government. It’s a bit too long and detailed, so I’ve pruned it to the essentials below.
Of course, students would have to go beyond just selecting their government – they’d also explain the good it did as well as the problems it caused. And they’d write this as if they were writing a history book. Here’s an example from my own civilization, Byrdlandia:
The Byrdlandians chose a pure democracy as their government, in which each Byrdizen over the age of 12 received the right to vote. Although this made for thoughtful and fair laws, it caused delays when decisions needed to be reached quickly. In the Great War of 1983, this led to a loss of three major cities (Eggville, Nestia, and Chirpington) because the people could not agree on a battle plan.
This gives kids a chance to be creative, while exploring the interesting ideas of why a monarchy might be good in some situations and a republic could be bad.
The idea of selecting a government fits nicely with an “ancient civilizations” curriculum, but could easily be adapted for other grade levels as well:
- If you teach about cities, students could consider different political setups beyond a mayor or city council.
- For grades that feature the American Revolution, students could create colonies which select a constitutional monarchy.
- If creating their own Native American tribe, students could select various leadership structures and explain the effects.
The key is to let students explain their choices.
They key is to let students explain their choices. If their revolutionary colonies decide on an absolute monarchy, don’t dismiss this as an impossible idea. Perhaps they have an interesting justification.
Change Over Time
Of course, for some added complexity, you can ask your students to explain how their people transitioned from an early government to a new form of government. Many real countries began as absolute monarchies and transitioned to a constitutional monarchy, or a republic.
A Pruned List
Here’s a smaller version of the list that I’d give students:
- Absolute Monarchy: A king or queen rules with complete power. There are no laws or constitution to limit their power.
- Constitutional Monarchy: A king or queen rules with limited power. A congress or parliament creates a constitution that limits the monarch’s power.
- Oligarchy: A small group of people rule the land, possibly under a constitution.
- Republic: The citizens elect representatives who vote in their place.
- Democracy: The citizens themselves control laws by directly voting.
- Theocracy: A government in which a religious group has authority and rules the land. Laws are based on the religion’s beliefs.
Let me know how you might implement this idea with your own students.